Mother of four, senior early childhood education major Laycee Thigpen, of Fairview Heights, Illinois, shows hard work and dedication to her own learning while also applying her knowledge.
Thigpen was nominated by the Early Childhood Education Program faculty, and was selected to speak at the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior Undergraduate Students Commencement.
Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Early Childhood Program faculty Elizabeth Sherwood said Thigpen was the best choice for a commencement speaker.
“Laycee has been an outstanding student and role model for her peers. She has an upbeat positive attitude that she brings to her daily life and also brings to her peers,” Sherwood said.
According to Sherwood, Thigpen has worked as a teacher for Head Start and has placements in early childhood settings every semester.
Thigpen said she was excited to be chosen as a commencement speaker.
“Being that I’m a nontraditional student and I have children and a husband, I put forth a lot of time and energy in submitting quality work and being an example in the classroom and as a student, as well,” Thigpen said. “So, for my professors to actually recognize me and see the hard work that I put in — that I feel sometimes people don’t see is very exciting — and I felt like someone actually gets me.”
Thigpen said her commencement speech will focus on motivation.
“It will be a motivational message just letting people know that the world needs us and that our time at SIUE has prepared us for the next stage in our lives,” Thigpen said. “So we have to make sure that we take all that we have learned and we use it to change the world.”
Senior early childhood education major Meagan Mendez, of Edwardsville, has done co-student teaching for the past eight weeks with Thigpen. Mendez said Thigpen has a great personality.
“As a person, [Thigpen] is hilarious. She has a presence when she walks in the room where you knows she’s there and as a teacher she is super enthusiastic and fun,” Mendez said. “I don’t think even growing up I have known a teacher with that type of enthusiasm, and she really makes learning fun for the kids.”
Sherwood said what stands out about Thigpen is her ability to work well with children.
“[Thigpen] is incredibly encouraging of children’s ideas, she sets the stage for innovating and engaging activities and she lets the children bring their own creativity and energy to the experiences,” Sherwood said.
Thigpen runs a summer camp in East St. Louis called Delights Enrichment Camp, where she hopes to apply her skills.
“I really look forward to using what I learned at SIUE to provide quality care for children who have a lot of risk factors,” Thigpen said.
Commencement for School of Education, Health and Human Behavior students will begin at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, May 11 in the Vadalabene Center.