College grad raised family, then earned degreeWritten by Lori Golaszewski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Doerfler always wanted to earn a college degree.
Her dream was realized in May when she graduated from Owens Community College with an associate degree in early childhood education technology.
The Toledoan and mother of six was in her early 50s when she entered college. Her two youngest children, now 16 and 17, were getting older, Doerfler said, and she began thinking about what she wanted to do after they left the nest.
“Even though I’m older, I still have a lot to give,” Doerfler, 56, said. “The Lord has blessed me tremendously, and I would like to give back. I’m not ready to sit back and do nothing now that my children are grown.”
Doerfler said her passion for children and her experiences as a full-time mom and foster parent to eight children over the years influenced her decision to major in early childhood education technology.
“From my own children and the children my husband and I fostered as our children were growing up, I could see in the system that what was lacking was not so much the education of young children, but the education of their parents and preparing them for school,” she said. “That’s what we really need are more parenting skills and more support for parents to parent their children successfully. So, I decided I would start out in early childhood with an associate degree and then branch out into a bachelor’s degree in parent education.”
Entering the classroom for the first time was a daunting experience, Doerfler said. She recalled having butterflies and feeling like she didn’t fit in because of her age.
“It was really scary walking into a classroom of kids after having been out of a classroom for so long,” Doerfler said. “The more I went, the more self-confidence I got. So I kept going, and eventually I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t believe that I actually did it.”
Also surprising to Doerfler was being named the recipient of the Gerald Bazer Award, the highest honor given to a College of Arts and Sciences graduate in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement. Doerfler earned a 4.0 GPA.
Elisa Huss-Hage, associate professor of teacher education at Owens, said Doerfler’s strong work ethic and valuable insights made her a “pleasure to have in class.”
“She’s an inspiration,” Huss-Hage said. “She added depth and maturity to the classroom and is truly an example of how you can wear a variety of hats and still pursue your goals.”
Huss-Hage said she was particularly impressed with Doerfler when, during her last semester of school, she and her family hosted a 14-year-old boy from Guatemala who had traveled to the area for surgery.
“She was in the middle of this very intense teaching experience at Maumee Valley Country Day School and she was taking care of Eduardo. She handled everything with such grace.”
Doerfler said she is still figuring out where she wants to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, she is looking to put her classroom and life experiences to use in the community. She hopes to work at a nonprofit organization “helping children who don’t have a lot of opportunities,” she said.