Welcome to the ACE Alumni Spotlight, where we highlight alumni members and share what they are up to.
Mary Misiunas was inspired to become a nurse after experiencing firsthand less than ideal patient care. Not only has she used her career to care of and educate young students, but now she’s using her RN to MSN degree to teach at the university level, becoming a much-needed nurse educator.
ACE: What’s your current job? Tell us a little about what you do.
Mary Misiunas (MM): I work as a RN/educational assistant for a special education cooperative. In a nutshell, that means when I am not taking care of medically fragile kids in a classroom, I am helping them learn basic skills according to their developmental abilities. I have been in a K-2 classroom with some amazing students for the last two years and it has been rewarding to be a part of their journey along with their parents. It is such a small niche in the nursing profession, few people know it exists or have the opportunity to have such a remarkable experience.
I am also just getting started on my summer position as an adjunct clinical instructor in pediatrics at a university in downtown Chicago. This is the first time I am giving my new credentials a try since graduating in March of this year.
ACE: When and how did you know you wanted to have this career?
MM: I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was in high school after having a less than therapeutic experience with a nurse after I had surgery. I thought if I could spare one person from going through what I went through I would achieve my goal. I took the long way around and finally decided that as I was aging, I was not going to be able to keep pace with kindergarteners’ intellectual/developmental disabilities forever. The more research I did, the more I realized how big the need is for teaching about this population and how deep the healthcare disparities were.
ACE: How did you hear about ACE?
MM: My supervisor at the time came back from a conference with materials. ACE was starting a pilot program at the time. I am so glad she thought of me and discussed it with me. She has since retired but she knows how forever grateful I am to her for this new start!
ACE: How were you able to complete an online degree successfully? What tips would you share?
MM: It was not easy, but it is so worth it. Make a routine a stick to it. Build in a rest day to flex for unexpected events. Talk to your instructors and others who are there to support you. Have a least one if not a couple of friends in classes — someone to bounce ideas off and get their take on assignments. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – my creativity was always supported.
ACE: How has your ACE degree helped you in your career?
MM: It gave me so much more than the credentials I need to advance my career. I understand so much more and look at so many factors of life differently than I did before. I am lucky to have developed what I perceive now as lifelong friendships. I am also still connected with a few of my instructors.
ACE: What is one of your favorite assignments you have given to your students?
MM: There was a student who had been refusing to work on numbers for the last year and a half. Three months ago, she asked me how to learn to add. We pulled out the blocks to pique her interest and now she knows all of her numbers and can add independently to 10. There is something to be said about taking the opportunity when it presents itself sometimes!
ACE: Personally or professionally, what are you loving right now?
MM: I am loving the feeling of seeing what I can do with my new credentials. One student called me professor for the first time and it took everything I had not to cry but I am sure I was beaming. I am looking forward to graduation and hoping to meet some of the students and instructors I have been through so much with in person!
ACE: Anything else you would like to share?
MM: Stay committed and it will all work out. ACE staff were willing to work with me despite my need to take a leave, turn in an assignment or two late, and just being there. I was not sure I would be successful in an online school. I am older and technology is not my strong suit. But the staff at ACE and my colleagues were there to help. Instructors are truly invested in your success.
Busy registered nurses learn when it’s convenient for them at American College of Education. Our fully online nursing programs will help you take your career to new places.