While Iowa College Aid’s GEAR UP Iowa program teams with schools aiming to increase college attainment by building a college-going culture at schools starting in 7th grade, none of GEAR UP Iowa’s efforts can succeed without the engagement of teachers and administration. For many teachers, the goal of increasing the number of students going to college isn’t a new one. Instead, working with GEAR UP Iowa gives them an additional support and resources to make that goal more achievable.
Teacher Appreciation Week offers the chance to recognize the work that teachers year-round and, in many cases, over a number of years. Mary Bissinger has long been a advocate for higher education and, as her GEAR UP Iowa facilitator Nathan Svare points out, has been “vital” in the GEAR UP Iowa efforts at Wood Intermediate School in Davenport.
“Over her teaching career, Mary has always been very passionate about ensuring that students know their options when it comes to college,” says Svare of Bissinger. Svare adds that while Bissinger has coordinated many college visits for students, the Family Consumer Science teacher has a knack for connecting with families, often drawing over 100 family members to events that cover such topics as 529 college savings plans, transitioning from middle school to high school and how middle school families can prepare for college.
Bissinger’s success with family engagement garnered her an invitation to share her experiences with other GEAR UP Iowa schools as a presenter at this spring’s GEAR UP Iowa Conference in Des Moines.
She shares her vision of success that she hopes to make a reality through the support of GEAR UP Iowa:
GEAR UP Iowa means doors opening for our young people that might have never been opened before. This program offers dreams and future possibilities to our students. It helps open their eyes to “what could be” if given the proper training and direction. Many students have visited colleges and universities for the first time as part of the program. Others saw themselves working in the trades from our visit to the Blong Center in Davenport. Still others saw themselves, possibly for the first time, achieving a college education and pursuing a vocation among a vast array of careers.
Is this available to everyone? No, but to those lucky few, their dreams and futures are definitely brighter and more achievable because of a wonderful program called GEAR UP Iowa.