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Homegrown teacher

Posted 8/16/16 (Tue)

Homegrown teacher

By Cecile Wehrman
Marissa Ratcliffe-Cox, 23,  grew up in Crosby schools, studied in her Crosby home to become a teacher and next week begins a 15-week student teaching assignment in Crosby.
It’s a longheld dream come true and one requiring tenacity to achieve.
“I always had it in my head that I wanted to be a social worker or a teacher,” said Marissa, but after graduating from high school in 2012, she entered college in pursuit of a business degree.
She thought a business background might come in handy should she ever wish to become more involved with her parent’s grocery store -- she is the daughter of Randy and Brenda Ekness, Crosby -- but the calling to work with kids did not abate.
And sooner than she expected, she began her own family. But nothing could derail her desire to get an education.
“I just felt like people had the idea, like, ‘She’s a teen mom. She’s just screwed her life up,’ and that’s kind of always been my biggest motivation,” Marissa said, to prove the naysayers wrong and counter the stereotype that early motherhood means giving up on your own dreams.
Marissa never let her family obligations slow her down.
Following her graduation with a two-year business degree in 2014, Marissa enrolled at Mayville State to pursue a teaching degree and soon, she’ll be taking the tests to obtain her license.
That she will have managed to squeeze in two college degrees in just over four years is accomplishment enough for any young person. That she did it mostly by attending school online -- and also during the same time frame as getting married, giving birth to two children -- Espen, 4, and Nevaeh, 4 months -- and running a daycare, is an indication of her ability to juggle the demands of home and career.
“Up until last fall I was driving to Williston at least two times a week,” she said. 
Marissa said she was fortunate to have good daycare parents who were flexible about her need to attend classes or study.
“Sometimes, I’d have certain kids, they would come at 6 a.m. and I’d have other kids until 3:30 p.m.,” the appointed hour for her to drive to class in Williston.
“I did my homework at nap time,” she said. “It was difficult, to say the least.”
More recently, she was able to coordinate with Mayville State and the Divide County School District to receive instruction over the high school’s ITV system, in the evening.
“The principal said it was okay and with the help of Shana (Haugenoe), I was able to take my classes at the high school,” said Marissa.
She admits sticking to her school work hasn’t always been easy, but “it’s very nice to be able to do everything up here,” rather than have to drive to Williston.
When it came time for student teaching, Marissa was a little nervous she wouldn’t get to teach in her home district.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s been fun,  just for me, subbing.”
Marissa will student teach full time with fourth grade teacher Kari Lesmeister at Divide County Elementary School. It is an unpaid position -- a price to pay for the possibility of getting her foot in the door of the education field.
Eventually, Marissa hopes to get a contract in Crosby. Her husband Kevin works as a  pumper for Samson Resources.
Marissa credits her parents with instilling in her the drive and work ethic needed to be successful. She is thankful, too, for professors who cared -- even from a distance.
“They made the experience so much more personal even if we never met face to face. I’m still getting emails from some of my teachers asking how I am doing and letting me know they are always there to help,” said Marissa.
Whether from family, friends, her husband or teachers, encouragement came when needed.
“There were many times throughout the program it would just be so much easier not to have all this homework,” said Marissa, but her parents taught her you have to work hard for the things you want in life.
“I was lucky to have that support,” Marissa said.
Distance learning not only allowed her to become a homegrown teacher, it gave her the opportunity to stay home with her family.
Williston State College Distance Education Coordinator Alissa Renner said schools are increasingly tailoring programs to fit non-traditional students who need online and evening courses.
“Marissa is a prime example of that. She was very focused and had a great work ethic,” said Renner, and that helped Marissa achieve her goals.