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Once Katie McDonough ’23 Turned The Corner, There Was No Looking Back for Teacher-to-Be

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Kathleen McDonough '23

Kathleen “Katie” McDonough ’23 went into her sophomore year of high school with a 2.0 GPA. She flunked geometry the year before. College was not on her horizon.

On Saturday, the ebullient and confident first-generation student graduated from Keene State College magna cum laude, with a degree in secondary education, with a specialization in history. She also received the Dr. J. Duane Squires History Prize recipient, which recognizes the top history student across the University System of New Hampshire.

It is an understatement to say that Katie has come a long way.

No secrets, just hard work, is how she describes her academic transformation.

“I learned that when effort is given, things fall into place,” Katie said. “Eventually, I figured out how to take notes, that school was not snap-of-the-finger easy for me. It took a lot of studying, being in the library for hours, even days, on end.”

I learned that when effort is given, things fall into place. Eventually, I figured out how to take notes, that school was not snap-of-the-finger easy for me. It took a lot of studying, being in the library for hours, even days, on end.”

– Katie McDonough

Beyond that, none of her accomplishments would have been possible had a teacher at her high school in Stamford, Connecticut, not stepped up for her. That teacher, Katie said, listened to her, arranged tutoring for her, and saw in her the potential to do more and be more.

Katie finished high school with 3.4 GPA and will leave Keene State with a 3.7 overall GPA and a 3.9 GPA in major-related courses. She made Dean’s List every semester. At Honors Convocation she will be introduced and presented with the Squires award.

“Honestly,” she said, “the support and recognition I’ve gotten from professors here has meant everything. In high school, I had one teacher call me stupid.”

Kathleen McDonough

“The central thing that comes to mind is the enthusiasm Katie brings and the scholarly work she does,” says Keene State professor Greg Knouff, who had Katie in three classes and advised her in her role as an executive officer for the College’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, a national honor society for the study of history. “Her attitude is contagious; she takes her classes seriously. She is intellectually curious and she has a great presence, and that will be missed in our department.”

“Katie is going to be a great social studies teacher,” Knouff added.

Katie completed her student teaching placement this spring, at a high school in Vermont, and she has not ruled out enrolling in Keene State’s special education master’s (M.Ed) program that starts in the fall.

She imagines her future classroom being “as inclusive as possible so that every type of learner can succeed.”

Special attention, Katie said, is at the heart of a difference-making classroom and teacher.

“I knew since I was young that I wanted to teach, in particular to instruct children,” she said. “One day I want to do for students what that one teacher and these professors here did for me. I want to practice what I’ve been taught.”

“Katie grew from a young undergraduate student into a young professional ready to serve the greater good beyond our campus,” said John Sturtz, her academic adviser. “Along the way, she engaged in rigorous study and committed to learning as much as possible. It is amazing to see how far she has come.”

Traveling and seeing the world are part of Katie’s “life plan,” so she is preparing to move and to teach anywhere opportunities arise.

She values the love of history that she discovered, the power of getting involved (she was also a student ambassador for the history department), and that she is the one who is paying for her education.

“The grants and scholarships are a big help, but the loans are in my name,” she said.

During the fall semester of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katie took four classes remotely while holding down four jobs.

“Keene State was founded as a teaching college and has an amazing teaching program that drew me in, and small classes and relationships I’ve built with professors has given me a community feeling away from home. Keene State also gave me the best offer for the situation I was in financially.”

Her advice to others? “Trust your gut; don’t give up. College allowed me to see how capable anyone can be when they put their heart and mind into something. Be patient, too, you will find your people, the classes you enjoy, and the professors you like. College is all about trying and experiencing new things.”

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