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2 More Graduates in Their Own Words: Ana and Lizzie

2 More Graduates in Their Own Words: Ana and Lizzie

July 17, 2021


Dear WinkWorld Readers.

In the previous two WinkWorlds, I introduced you to some recent graduates, and I will continue with that theme by highlighting two more,  Lizzie and Ana

On the left is Lizzie with her Grandma (one of my best Besties ever), and on the right is Ana, Mike (one of Ana’s best Besties ever) and me.









Lizzie and Ana have never met each other, but they have something in common: They each had their first child when they were 14 and 15-years-old.  I have known Lizzie since she was born, and I have known Ana since the early 90s when I was her professor in the bilingual credential program at CSU.

Liz graduated from high school a year early, got her SD teaching certificate, had two more children, and she will begin her teaching career in a month.

Here is Lizzie with her first baby.

Here is Ana with her first baby. 

From Migrant Fields to Doctoral Degree

Ana worked in the migrant fields on the West coast, went on to graduate from high school, successfully completed her undergraduate degree, got her CA teaching credential,  a Masters, has taught for 24 years (16 elementary, 8 high school, and 3 university level, part-time), had three more children, and successfully completed her Ph. D.  You can see why I am in awe of these two women.

Liz and family on the left.  Ana and family on the right.








Now here is Liz telling her story in her own words.

My name is Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fischer, I know Joan due to her being my grandmother’s best friend. I graduated from Black Hills State University in May with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I have accepted an offer to teach in Mobridge, SD as a second-grade teacher. I could not be more eager to begin this next chapter in my life and start my career as a teacher, my lifelong passion! I was able to get into my classroom several days ago and let’s just say there is A LOT of work ahead of me to get the classroom ready for my students.

I am a mother of three truly amazing, beautiful, and intelligent children. My oldest (Carson) was born when I was a freshman in high school, which has inspired me to become the best mother I could possibly be. I was able to graduate high school a year early, so I could start college and be the mother I was striving to be. However, life happens, and my plans for continuing my education was put on halt for a few years. I went back to school in 2018 and ended up getting pregnant with my second child (Cora). I pushed through the semester, my classes, and I was in labor with her when I was in my last class of the semester and proceeded to take a final after class was over. After I completed my final, I  her later that day. I finished my methods block classes with a newborn and when she was about 9 months old, I found out I was pregnant with my third child (Conner). After I had him, I was very hesitant to go back to school due to having him at 34 weeks. He was in the NICU for 3 ½ weeks and when he came home, I decided I just needed to finish school or else I may never go back. All I had left was to student teach so I signed up to complete it in January.

When I started student teaching all I could think was: Am I CRAZY, how am I going to raise 3 children (10, 1, and 3 months at the time)? I thought I would never be able to pass and complete the next 4 months of student teaching. With endless amounts of tears, late nights/early mornings of studying and so much hard work; it finally paid off!! Now look at me I am going to be a teacher in a little over a month!

I never in a million years thought that I would be able to achieve all that I have accomplished over the years. It took me 9 years to receive my bachelor’s degree, but I never gave up or lost sight of the finish line. If you can carry one thing away from reading about me it is that no matter what obstacles you are facing, you are so capable of achieving your dreams and DO NOT let anyone stop you, not even yourself. Take one day at a time and never stop believing in yourself! Thank you for taking time out of your day to read about my journey!

Congratulations Elizabeth Fischer!  We are honored to have you join the teaching profession.

And, now please meet Ana York in her own words.

Forever Grateful

In 1980 my father moved us from Puerto Rico to California in hope of a better life. I was a shy eight-year-old who did not speak English, so I fondly recall my ESL classes. Language instruction played a considerable role in my academic achievements. After elementary school, I attended junior high, and it was during that vulnerable phase, I began to have self-esteem issues. Therefore, I dated someone who was six years older. I married him when I was a freshman in high school and gave birth to my first child my sophomore year. It was difficult for me to attend regular high school, so I transitioned to alternative education, where I did independent studies.

After graduating, I went to a vocational program, where I was placed in an internship with the possibility of employment. Unfortunately, my placement closed down due to budget cuts. It was a devastating time for me. I was unemployed and pregnant with my second child. My mother encouraged me to use that setback to move forward by attending junior college. I met with a college counselor, and I shared I wanted to be a doctor. She looked at my transcripts and recommended vocational school (the irony). Two years later, I graduated and transferred to CSU Stanislaus, where I graduated with a bachelor’s and a teaching credential.

At CSU I participated in the Mini-Corp program, which taught me strategies and skills to support my future students. My professors in the credential program were compassionate and flexible (especially Dr. Wink). Through the recommendations of my professors and Mini-Corp, a district hired me for an internship. I taught a combination of kindergarten, first, and second grades during the day (8:00-3:00 PM) and went to school in the evening (4:30-10:00 PM). The sacrifice paid off. I was finally financially independent!

WinkWorld Readers, Joan here again.  It was during her internship and classes until 10 p.m. that I met Ana in one of my classes.  I never heard anything from her again for about 15 years, when she called out of the blue, and asked me to be on her doctoral committee.

Now back to Ana’s story.

Throughout my academic experiences, I have learned to appreciate my setbacks (the doctoral program was no exception). In every dark moment of my life, God has placed programs and people to light my path. My educational journey gave me more than just a degree! It gave me freedom from poverty and violence! It is why I am immensely grateful for the opportunities in this country.

WinkWorld Readers, this is Joan now, as I wanted to share this photo of a t-shirt I sent Ana, during one of those very challenging times while she was working on her dissertation.

Back to Ana’s story in her words:

I am grateful for programs like Adolescent Family Life for providing a public health nurse to do home visits and provide me with educational and parenting resources. Rochelle Olson was the nurse assigned to my case. She was instrumental in my life. I am grateful to programs like EOPS for helping me navigate the university system. I am so incredibly thankful to all taxpayers who contributed to the system so that I could break the cycle of poverty. I am so appreciative to my district for employing me for the past twenty-four years. I am also thankful to my parents for deciding to move to California and for helping me take care of my children. Finally, I am grateful to my children for their love and kindness and for continuously inspiring and strengthening me to succeed!

Ana, you inspire me. I will be cheering wildly for you on your graduation day.

The next WinkWorld will focus on storytelling and storylistening.



  • Diane Kindt

    Thank you, Joan, for sharing the stories of our dear Lizzie and Ana. They are both an inspiration to many! I remember then calls from Liz saying “she couldn’t do this”,

    And we always replying that she could. Her excitement the past weeks with preparing her room is a delight to watch. She will be an asset to the Mobridge system.

    Thank you for sharing their stories. You inspired both of them, dear friend. 💕

    • Joan Wink

      Diane, you were there from the beginning, and you know so well all of the chapters of the story that I did not mention. Yes, Lizzie’s future is bright, and she will continue to contribute. xoxox

  • Sharon Whitehead-van Loben Sels

    Beautiful, inspiring, and intelligent women! Congratulations and thank you for sharing your stories.

  • Sharon Biegen

    What beautiful and inspiring stories! They are also reminders of the importance of public support for educational institutions and support programs!

    • Joan Wink

      Hi Sharon,
      Yes, these two young women are truly amazing! I so hope that their stories help a beginning educator somewhere! Hope all is well for you and Brian.

  • Ione Stiles

    Amazing stories ! I know Lizzie’s & enjoyed reading Ana’s also!! Thank you for caring and being there for them!!!!!

    • Joan Wink

      Hi Ione, glad you enjoyed these stories – these two young women are so inspiring for me, too.

  • Two amazing and inspirational women who were supported by another very inspirational teacher! Thanks for their stories Joan!❤

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