• Giovanni Alvarado

Meet Teresa Spesia

Well folks, we have come to our final interview for the semester. I can’t thank you enough for sticking with me and learning about some of the great people that make up the USF campus be what it is. After meeting with the “USF Political Firebrand” Julie Victa, for our final Idol of Inspiration interview we will be visiting someone that works closely and hard on campus. This inspirational person is known to have grace, admirable wisdom and has always been championing for the best interest of both staff and student’s while being at USF. This person will always go out of her way to make sure no student goes unheard and assist when any problems may arise to hinder the student’s learning, making sure they get to graduate with ease. But most importantly, her door is always open to talk about anything.

Any faces coming to mind? If you guessed the lovely Teresa Spesia, USF’s Field Experience Coordinator, then your spot on!

Teresa Spesia, known by many as “Tracy” for short, is known for her welcoming, humble and heartwarming personality in USF and around the Joliet area.

She also serves on the School JTHS Board. There may be times when some students or staff feel they need someone to talk to or help with their problems, educational events and affairs, Mrs. Spesia is always open to help in any way she can no matter how big or small the issue may be. Students know Tracy for always knowing what to say and what the best plan forward would be to achieve their educational goals while being in USF. She reminds us to refocus ourselves as dedicated students to aim at graduation and further aspirational endeavors. This is great because every freshman knows going into a new school you always find yourself having many questions and needing to learn the ropes all over again. Her Mission: “To awaken our true potential and unlocking the secrets of higher education and experience.”

Giovanni Alvarado: Are you married and do you have any kids?

Tracy Spesia: Yes, I have been married to my husband Dave since 1990, so this Christmas will mark 29 years of happy marriage and I have 5 children. Their ages range from 18 – 26, so one being a senior in high school and the oldest 26 working, being 3 girls and 2 boys. So, I have received great experiences from my kids and in being a mom. I’m very excited that my youngest is graduating from high school this May.

GA: What made you want to work here and be a part of the USF community?

TS: Oh my gosh. Well, I think a lot of times, life brings you to places. So, I didn’t intend to set out to come to USF, I just heard from a friend who was doing field experience supervision, which is when you go into the schools and you observe teachers in training and giving them feedback. And she had that job that was very part time and very flexible. I had little kids then, I didn’t have all of my kids but most pregnant with my fourth. I thought to myself, “Wow! I would find that job so interesting and I could still manage with my family.” You know, so it was just that this opportunity rose up and she passed my name along with the opportunity arising at a good time. I started that in 2000 and I did that for 10 years where I just was able to be part time in the schools working for the college of Ed, but really involved in the university campus.

Then my boss retired, and they offered me the position to go full time. And so, that was like a second chapter for me and since 2010 I’ve been full time, one of the reasons I love being here is the people and I’mreally excited to work in a place that is benefiting the community I live in. I think USF is “Joliet’s university” and through this university I get to be a part of the community, I really love it. I can’t imagine leaving and going to be a part of something else and coming back here to live. No, I get to be a part of working where I live. And people should know, there isn’t one type of student here, there are adult returning students, there’s students that are first to go to college in their family, there are students that have a long legacy of being a part of the USF family, and there are students here that have gotten athletic scholarships being part of a team. You know, there’s just all these reasons why people are here, and I love that.

GA: How has your experience working at USF enhanced you more as a person?

TS: I’ve grown into the person I am since I started here, so I’ve been exposed to things in my field, I’ve met many great people, I have all these great colleagues. So, a lot of the person I am is because I’ve been here.

GA: What is the best part of working here for you?

TS: The best part is all the different things I get to do. So, my job has a lot of variety. I have a longer job title, I am the “Field Experience Coordinator and Partnership Liaison.” So that means I get to do things that relate to putting pre-service teachers in schools, I get to work with their evaluation, I get to work with partnerships with schools, partnerships with the community, I get to work at a state level, at a national level. So, I actually get to be a part of so many different things that I get to think about, so my job is always interesting. But the students are always my top priority, you know, they are my drive and inspiration. I get some that come over and say to me sometimes “ Oh I don’t want to bother you” and I invite them to come and talk about their problems and tell them “You’re the most important thing I do is being with students and helping you out!” So, it really is a gift and honor to talk with so many students and their own inspirational endeavors.

GA: What is your own personal mission and goal while working here?

TS: I really want to be a part of infusing our college of education program with meaningful and relevant skills to improve all student’s learning. And it means a lot of different things but that’s the goal. So,it’s not just the people that are teaching math know math, its so that they understand how to connect with different students, how to connect with their families and continue to develop ways to create more equity in our world. And education, is I think, the very first place that we can be game changers when it comes to equity and access. Not only do students need to have opportunity but the support at home and school. So, the better job we do building up great teachers to go out to the community, the better the community. I think the mission of being an educator is nothing short of being like a life changer.

GA: Any hobbies, talents, or interesting things people may want to know more about you?

TS: So, to be honest, I’m trying to find those again. (laughs) I used to be a big reader and read for pleasure and between my work here and in the community, it’s a lot of responsibility I’m really dedicated to. I just completed my doctorates here last summer, I gotten away from much leisure because I love what I do, I love my work with what I am doing. But I am very close with my family and sisters, college friends, friendships are a hobby of mine. (laughs). But what I will say is I hope to get to cultivate returning to reading for pleasure, so I just joined a book club so I get to be a part of that. My hobby is my family and just being part of their daily life.

It’s interesting having 5 kids, so when they were little it was physically demanding and in kind of the middle years it was kind of more driving them to places and paying attention where they are, making sure all permission slips are signed. In this stage, where they are really adults, it takes still a lot of time I want to spend just keeping up with them and having that spot in their lives. So, they don’t need me in same way which just means I’ve done the job I hoped to do. But I want to be a part of their lives. If I talked to each one of my five kids, once a week, only, that would be 5 nights a week I would be on the phone having a good conversation with my kids. Soon, my youngest will be out of the house, and when they are all out of the house, if I don’t kind of carve out time to really stay connected to my kids, we are going to build new pathways where we are not in touch in the same way. So, I actually think that’s kind of like a hobby. (laughs).

GA: What is your favorite movie film and who is your favorite musical artist or song?

TS: Well one thing that has always been true of me is that I always struggle with the word “favorite.” My kids would be like “oh my gosh, don’t, she will go just on and on.” So, I really struggle with favorites so that’s why I always say “one of my favorites” instead. Still, I may not be able to answer (laughs). To be honest, I’m really easily moved, so, its probably gonna be something I recently saw or that came into my mind. I will simply say that I am very open minded to anything including movies and musical artists. I’ve always been able say since I was little my favorite color is purple, so I just sort of stick with that.

GA: What is one thing you want to see change in the world?

TS: Well, I think what changes the world is relationships. But the world is so vast, so I understand that how you bring that to scale is an important question. So, I don’t want to minimize what you need. But I think whichever way you approach the problems of the world, I think that if we don’t approach them through the vehicle of relationships, that they’re not gonna be successful. It’s recognizing that the only way one person can help another person is that there is some personal contact. So, the systems that will change the world, whether it’s bringing about world peace, or addressing hunger, poverty, those things are only going to be addressed if there are relationships built into the solution.

GA: What is one inspirational quote or piece of advice that you would like to share to people reading this?

TS: Always asking questions. Never be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s to learn more about something or to continue to grow, you know, to just have this mindset that you’re always thinking, learning and questioning. Not to be skeptical, I don’t mean it in that way. But I mean it to say that every opportunity you have to kind of expand your thinking that as best you can you take advantage of it. Not settle for what you already know as being all there is.

It was a delight to interview Tracy Spesia listening to her wise and inspirational words. You can tell that she genuinely cares about the well being of both staff and students on campus and their graduating journey into their real-life aspirations. Her convictions and goals as Field Experience Coordinator will only continue to strengthen the university and its many diverse people. Her vocation for aiming at higher education, problem free experience and most importantly, the strength of having support guides us as students to always remember to never settle or give up on our dreams of bettering ourselves. As the saying goes, “Your Limitation-it’s only your imagination,” which reflects well Mrs. Spesia teachings and personality.

I just would like to take the time to thank all of my readers and supporters along this journey of my “Idols of Inspiration” segment throughout the semester. It was truly a great learning and fulfilling experience getting to many of these great role models on campus. I also would like to give a special thanks to Antonio Smithberg, our dedicated Online Editor, who always did an amazing job posting on our USF Encounter website these interviews. As well as our Editor in Chief Katie Wozniak and Assistant Editor Amber James for allowing my idea of interview segments go forward and updating our social media when a new interview would come out.

This concludes “Season 1” of the “Idols of Inspiration,” due to our ending of our spring semester here at USF into summer. So, will there be a Season 2? Depending on time, planning schedule and other important aspects for preparation there could be a possibility for another season. I still would like to learn from many more inspirational idols on campus because there are still many out there I would like to cover for my readers to learn about. If given the opportunity again and right time, I would be grateful to continue the segment in a “Season 2” for the upcoming fall semester. I’m not quite the spoiler type, but some hints coming to mind of potential idol interview candidates range from a well-known person in philosophy, speech, science, communications, a well-known cafeteria firebrand and many more. All in store for a great season 2.

So, I will leave you with a final note to always remember to go out and talk with people more often, learn from them and their enriching and challenging experiences. Sure, technology is great but life doesn’t just revolve around social media likes, popularity or attention or texting. Go out and talk face-to-face when you can. The feeling is much more genuine and enjoyable for both people. Life is truly a mysterious non-fictional tale filled with many surprises and fateful encounters of serendipity. The world is big out there so go out and explore, for you may never know who you might meet, or what you may discover from them.

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