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Looking beyond her skin color, Kelly Copeland ’02 walked into the Los Angeles Escuela Elementary Center and applied for an assistant teacher position. The prestigious, predominantly African-American school had no Caucasian teachers and the school’s founder, Sandra Roussell, had her doubts. Yet Copeland’s persistence won out, and she got the job on a trial basis. After two weeks, her eagerness to immerse herself in a new culture and learn how to help others learn became an asset to the school.

This position was only a foot in the door for Copeland. She wanted more. She wanted a class of her own where she could design lessons and guide students. For that, she would need more education. And she wanted the best. As she researched, she seriously considered other Southern California universities, but held out for a better fit. Then she found Azusa Pacific’s Accelerated Degree Program in Human Development. “APU had the exact program I was looking for,” she said. “I was attracted to the small, personal classes, and the beautiful campus with its new facilities.”
That initial attraction translated into a solid relationship as Copeland began her course work. Connecting with her teachers and classmates over rich discussions of styles, techniques, and methods, she began to formulate her own philosophy of teaching. From each course and assignment, she gained more insight into how to teach students of another culture and how to set the tone in her classroom for maximum learning potential. “I was taught to analyze my own education experience and glean from past teachers, both negative and positive,” said Copeland. “It helped me understand the kind of teacher I want to be and how to become that person.”

Today, Kelly Copeland teaches her own second-grade class at Escuela, where many students are already preparing for Ivy League schools. She credits her time at APU with the boost she needed to launch her dream. “Azusa’s program allowed me to get out and do what I wanted to do – quickly,” said Copeland.