Molly Valenta
Cherry Creek School District
B.A. in English, Class of 2010

Molly in her classroom at Campus Middle School

“I attribute much of my success to my writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills, which were honed during my time at CSU.”

Could you tell us more about the work you are doing now?

Last month, I left corporate America to pursue my passion for teaching. I am currently a Para Educator at Campus Middle School while I earn my teaching license with the Colorado Department of Education. This spring, I will be a fully licensed Secondary English teacher and teaching on my own in the fall. Currently, as a Para Educator, I assistant teach in classrooms throughout the school. I lead small groups, work one-on-one with behaviorally disordered students, and substitute teach on a regular basis.

How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?

I cannot thank CSU’s English program enough for my preparation and success in my endeavors since graduating. Upon gradation, I entered corporate America. I started in a position managing client relations at a small software company, specializing in SEC compliance and financial reporting. From there, I moved on to be a Corporate Trainer and Curriculum Designer for R.R. Donnelley, a Fortune 500 company. Throughout my six years in the corporate world, I attribute much of my success to my writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills, which were honed during my time at CSU. Professors like Dr. Reid and Dr. Veck taught me the importance of English and showed me its relevance and value. Furthermore, they instilled the confidence in me to find success with my English degree from CSU.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)? How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?

Personally, my greatest accomplishment was realized last month when I finally found the courage to pursue my passion for teaching and make a major career change. Leaving a job that I knew so well, was very successful at, and that provided a very comfortable paycheck to pursue my dreams was scary. For years, I toyed with the idea of making a career change and becoming a teacher, but fear always stopped me in my tracks. Finally, after months of self-reflection, I just decided to dive in and overcome my fears. Since my first day of school on August 23rd, I have not looked back once! I am happier than I ever thought I could be–I get paid to do what I love! I will always remember Dr. Reid’s class, Writing in the Disciplines: Education, when I really knew that if I ever did teach, it would be English/Language Arts!

Professionally, my greatest accomplishment was entering the financial reporting world right after college, with very little knowledge of corporate finance, and learning the ropes quickly and successfully. Each day presented new challenges, but I always know I could fall back on my strengths: my speaking, writing, and critical thinking. As I mentioned earlier, I credit the CSU English Department with helping me develop these lifelong skills and that certainly led to success for me.

What did you like about the English program? Why did you choose to study here?

The sense of community in the English program was and still is amazing. That really makes a huge difference at a large school like CSU. Furthermore, as students, we were always given the autonomy to research and write about topics that personally interested us—I always really appreciated that, it made me feel valued and gave me confidence as a writer.

I chose to study at CSU because I had always loved the school and the campus. I am a Colorado native, and naturally did not want to leave our great state. CSU and Fort Collins always felt warm and welcoming to me. I look back fondly on my four years at CSU.

Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?

Overall, my favorite memory of the English Department is all the friendships I made. I still keep in touch with several former classmates via Facebook and it is neat to see where everyone is now!

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?

As I mentioned previously, Dr. Reid always stood out in my mind. Dr. Reid was always so patient with us and really cared about making sure we learned the material. She also challenged us to explore outside our comfort zone. I will never forget once having to read a graphic novel for her class. To be honest, I didn’t even know graphic novels existed until her class, let alone read one. Now, I have 7th grade students reading them!

I do still keep in touch with Dr. Reid, and I am thankful for that. She recently reached out to me via LinkedIn when she noticed my new job. Her simple LinkedIn message showing her continued support and interest in my success probably meant more to me than she realizes. It just goes to show how the CSU English Department community remains strong years after graduation!

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

English is one of the most valuable majors you can choose. Too often, I encounter professionals who lack strong writing and speaking skills, which instantly diminishes their credibility. If you want to be successful, you MUST be a strong writer, speaker, and critical thinker. The CSU English Department will strengthen all those skills and more.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

Seek out the guidance of your professors. I know it can seem intimidating at first, especially as an underclassman, but it really will help you build great relationships. Looking back, I wish I had built more relationships with my professors like the relationship I built with Dr. Reid.

What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing? OR, You have an hour to spend in a bookstore. What section do you make a beeline to?

The last novel I read was Dodgers by Bill Beverly. This coming of age story follows four teenage boys as they navigate gang life in South Central LA and end up on an eventful cross-country road trip as a gang initiation of sorts. Consequently, I have teamed up with a former English teacher to write curriculum for the novel. We recently sent our sample curriculum to the author and publisher and I hope to teach our curriculum next year to high school English students.

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I love to explore Colorado with my husband and our two Labrador Retrievers. We try to get out to hike every weekend and we go camping often (we have the best secret spot in the Blue River National Forest). I also love to cook, spend time with my family and conquer DIY home improvement projects. Additionally, I sponsor the Student Council club at the middle school where I work, which I love!