It took years of hard work and determination for Jordyn Shields, a 30-year-old mom of four, to graduate with her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Newman.
“So many proud emotions today because I’ve watched my daughter work so hard for this,” Julie Linthicum, Shields’ mother, expressed in an Instagram post on Newman commencement day.
Shields graduated from high school in 2010 and had her first baby that summer. With her baby on her hip, she began an associate’s degree in the fall and graduated two years later.
“I had always dreamed about going back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, but having a family very young, I felt too guilty to spend time away from them to achieve that goal,” Shields said. “I also didn’t know what I was passionate about yet. I just knew I wanted to serve and help people in some way.”
Fast forward to 2020, Shields opened her own home daycare and worked full time to support her family of six.
“After several months of being a childcare provider, I knew what I was passionate about: serving and caring for children,” she said. “I knew I loved taking care of my own, but I didn’t expect to be completely passionate about caring for children in general. I was overcome with fulfillment but wanted to take it further and chose to get my bachelor’s degree in education.”
That’s when she decided to enroll at Newman as a nontraditional student.
For Shields, choosing Newman University for her bachelor’s degree was an easy decision. Many of the teachers in her Parsons, Kansas, community graduated from Newman and spoke highly of the education program. She was also inspired by her father, a 2013 Newman graduate, that it was never too late to earn a degree.
Despite countless late evening study sessions, Shields continued to balance work, school work, and her role as a mother and wife. There were times when she wanted to quit, but in those moments she decided to “keep pushing forward for my family.” Her grades landed her a spot on the dean’s list every semester.
In May 2023, Shields wore her cap and gown as she graduated summa cum laude from Newman University. She waved to her family members from the stage and could hear her children and family members cheering her on.
“It meant the world to me,” Shields said. “Before walking across the stage, I reminisced about the day I decided to go back to school. I remember getting accepted into the program and being so terrified I would fail. I hung a sign up in front of my study area that said ‘Your dreams won’t work unless you do.’ To finally walk across the stage with my B.S. degree meant the world to me, especially knowing my children were watching me in the crowd walk across the stage, achieving my dream. I hope it inspires them to chase theirs someday, too.”
Shields now teaches art to kindergarten through fifth grade at an elementary school that her children attend.
Newman’s education program, professors and flexible class format helped Shields feel both valued as a student and prepared for her first year as a teacher, she said. She also appreciated that they valued family first.
“At one point, my daughter was hospitalized for several days with post-COVID complications, and my husband was recovering from hip surgery,” Shields said. “I got really behind on my homework for a couple of weeks, but my adviser and professors came to me with empathy and encouragement to not give up. I can honestly say every professor I had had a role in being a support system. That support meant so much to me.”
For others considering returning to school, Shields says, “Do it.”
“If it means it can provide a better future for your children, do it. If it means you’ll be bettering your life, do it. There is no better time than the present. You just have to get through the hard times by staying focused on the ultimate goal: Your success. It will come.”
She is grateful to her family for being that support system to push her across the finish line. Her family, on the other hand, couldn’t be more proud of Shields’ efforts.
Linthicum believes her daughter can serve as “a huge encouragement for others to know that it’s possible.”
“Her dad and I are so proud of her as a mother to her children,” Linthicum said. “We knew she could do it, and it just made our hearts so full to see her determination.”
Explore education degrees at Newman University
Our education program trains more teachers than any other private college or university in Kansas.