Alumni Spotlight: Kacey Hayes '01, '09 Character Education
What brought you to USD?
My family and I moved from the Pasadena area when I was starting my Sophomore year of high school. Though I was very sad to leave my many close girlfriends, I quickly fell in love with San Diego's beautiful beaches and relaxed lifestyle. Though I considered other colleges, I was not ready to leave San Diego. When I was accepted at USD, I knew that I was here to stay! The small, Catholic school with a strong Education program was perfectly appealing to me.
How did e3 come about?
There are many key life experiences that developed my goal to create e3 some 14 years ago.
As a young child, I was very anxious about school. I loved my friends, teachers, and learning, but something about the competition or expectation worried me. I was constantly preoccupied with getting everything right. My mom was an elementary teacher, and I began working in her classroom very early on. I loved helping her in many ways, and, as I got older, I found that I loved to support her students who needed something extra for one reason or another. For example, she had a Japanese student, Mina, who was born in Japan with significant hearing impairments. As you can imagine, the English language was very challenging for her. I absolutely loved coming together with Mina and her parents to create ways to build her confidence and English skills.
I have a cousin that suffered from terrible seizures as a young baby as well. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy caring for baby Hannah, but, because I spent extensive time staying with my aunt and uncle during these stressful moments, I also realized just how much was really needed by Hannah’s family and me.
I was fortunate enough to receive an excellent education which led me to not only develop my own passion for learning and instruction but also to understand the value of being a support to the whole family system. I desired working in a small, intimate, rewarding environment where I could define a value system and embody a rich quality to our work while most importantly, instilling self-confidence and life skills in our students.
How do you incorporate leadership practices into e3?
Leadership is woven into each experience we have at e3, be it with our staff or our students. I like to create a work environment that fosters autonomy. Though I find it essential to set expectations and provide guidance when necessary, I want my teachers to come together as a team and define our workplace together. We all have strengths to share. Giving my staff the freedom to be creative in their positions allows them to step into and define their own unique role of leadership. Whether it be as an Office Manager whose days never look the same, a teacher with tremendous ability in math or literacy, a teacher with amazing insight in the IEP process, art, mindfulness, etc., my employees can step forward with trust and really lead and guide their peers. This is similar with our student population. Because they come to us from a mix of private and public schools, and they range in age and ability, we celebrate any and all of their triumphs. In doing so, they feel comfortable enough to let their true selves shine without any external pressure. We highlight growth and development with our Student of the Month, but I truly think the leadership is practiced, displayed and witnessed day in and day out. Some of our favorite moments in the office are watching students who have been working with us for years guiding and encouraging new students.
It simply validates our work! We provide an excellent support service in our San Diego community, and we absolutely love working with an array of families in need, various public and private schools, and our like-minded professional (doctors, counselors, specialists).
What is your fondest memory of USD?
I have so many beautiful memories of my time spent at USD, and I think my Sophomore year in the Vistas was truly the very best. I was settled into USD by then... really enjoying my coursework and friendships. It was a joy to live in apartments on campus, for I found it the perfect balance of independence while truly remaining active/connected to USD's on campus life. I was motivated to attend my classes because of the ease to walk to them, but my friends and I loved the notion of living in an apartment.
What is your favorite place on campus, why?
I just love Founder's Chapel. It is so peaceful, yet incredibly beautiful. I lived just above it my Freshman year. I loved the music that would pour out the windows! It is a very special place still today, especially when I returned annually for the Alumni Christmas mass.
Who was your favorite USD professor?
Dr. Edward DeRoche was my advisor and a professor, as well. He was definitely an inspiration at the time, and he has served as a life-long mentor still today. Dr. DeRoche wholeheartedly believed in relationship-based education. He pushed his students to think bigger and bolder as teachers. He didn't want us to simply teach the reading lesson, but to connect it to something vital in everyday life. He brought to life the idea of Newspaper in Education. He was also embraced Character Education, and this philosophy sunk in with me immediately. I received a Specialist Certificate in Character Development in 2009, and I mix in the principles daily with my clients and staff. Dr. DeRoche has a tremendously huge heart. He was passionate about improving education, and he graciously took me under his wing to teach me many vital lessons.
How have you remained involved with USD since graduation?
I try to attend any/ all North County alumni events. I go to the Alumni Christmas annually with my family, and we just love it. I have been to the Wine Classic a few times, and oh my what a fabulously fun event! I also attend/ participate in conferences held at SOLES or anything else that may be beneficial to my staff and I. I try to hire USD grads, too.
If you could offer a current USD student advice, what would it be?
Soak up the opportunities and friendships. Be present in the now. Those years are incredibly foundational, and USD students need to embrace each and every one.
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