Name: Jennifer Anshutz, SLPA
Position: Speech-language pathology assistant, Brookings School District
Hometown: Gregory, South Dakota
Jennifer Anshutz is on the precipice of "growing up," she says. A newly minted graduate of Mitchell Technical Institute in South Dakota, she is starting a job as a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) at Hillcrest and Medary elementary schools in Brookings, South Dakota. She isn't quite sure what to expect. Although she completed her internship at the schools—and enjoyed it—a new year brings new students, a new supervisor, and a sense of the unknown.
Jennifer Anshutz, SLPA
"I really liked my supervisor for my internship; now I have no idea who my supervisor will be, and it's kind of nerve-wracking," Anshutz admits. "But I know I like what I do so it will be all right."
Anshutz is at an enviable stage—she's barely into adulthood, full of energy, and willing to follow her instincts when it comes to choosing her career path. But don't get the wrong idea—it's not like she's a complete newbie. After graduating from high school in 2006, she earned a graphic communication associate degree as a precursor to work in the advertising and marketing field. She left her hometown of Gregory and moved to Sioux Falls to pursue school and work. But then she learned more about the field of advertising and, more important, a few things about herself.
"Initially I had really liked playing around on the computer and making print designs, but then really didn't like the Web design part. And, unfortunately, that's where all the jobs are going now," she says. "Plus, Sioux Falls was a little too big for me, too. I learned I was a small-town girl."
So in 2008, she moved to Mitchell and started to look for another path to adulthood. Having grown up in a family of teachers, she knew working in the schools was rewarding, but wasn't sure she wanted to become a teacher. Then she saw an article in the local paper about a new program opening up at Mitchell Technical Institute—an associate degree in speech-language pathology assistance—and Anshutz found precisely what she was looking for.
"When I applied, I actually had no idea what I would be doing. I knew I would be in a school, and I kind of knew what a speech-language pathologist did, but that was it," she says. "But after the first two weeks into the program, I knew I loved it. I loved working in the school, learning what SLPAs do, and the whole atmosphere. My supervisor was great, and she let me try things and helped me learn how and why some things worked with some students and some things didn't."
And now on the eve of her first day at her first "real" job as an SLPA, Anshutz is excited, nervous, and ready to get going. She's hoping that her new supervisor will give her the same support and level of collaboration as her first one did. If this year goes well, she says, she may consider taking her career further.
"I've always wanted to go on in school, and this seems like a really good field," she says. "We'll see how this year goes, and then I'll make my decision about finishing my bachelor's degree and looking beyond."
Contact Jennifer Anshutz, SLPA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.