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How Women — Especially Moms — Inspire Our Love of Learning

In celebration of Women’s History Month, ACT team members reflected on this question: “What women have had the biggest effect on your education journey in life, and why?” We’re sharing their stories in a three-part series of blog posts. Read parts one and two.

Stephanie Guillory, director, state government relations 

My mom and my best friend are the women who have had the biggest effect on my education journey. My mom made sure that I was confident and had a love of learning by being very committed to my early childhood education. She made sure that I always had plenty of books that were slightly more advanced than whatever reading level I was at at the time. These books were an exciting challenge for me that I enjoyed conquering. I also remember her making sure we were one of the first families in our neighborhood with a computer. This MS DOS-style computer served only one function that I remember: to play black-and-white educational games in the dining room. At that computer, I learned how to "win games" by identifying the definitions of words like "apathy" and "benevolent" years before learning them at school. The time my mother took to invest in my early childhood education fostered within me a love of reading and a confidence that allowed me to pursue my educational goals.

My best friend in high school — who remains a close friend today — is the reason I took the ACT test. We shared a healthy sense of supportive competition that prevented either of us from leaving the other behind, so when I asked her for which class she was carrying around an ACT prep book, she indignantly responded, "We are taking the ACT on a Saturday!" Naturally, I registered for the ACT and used it as a factor in applying for scholarships. She does not remember this conversation, but I do, and I tell the story often.

Melinda Taylor, principal solutions designer

I would break down the influencers into past and current. My mother and grandmother were significant influences in my past. My mother used education as a way to escape from a difficult childhood and to ensure that she would be independent and able to provide for herself throughout adulthood. She instilled that value in me growing up and made sure I understood that education was the way to shape my world however I wanted to shape it. My grandmother did not go to college as a young woman; rather, she started college after retirement and persevered through her coursework, eventually meeting what would be an insurmountable obstacle: college algebra. She struggled and struggled through her 60s and 70s to pass that course. I even tried to tutor her. She never was able to pass, but she kept trying repeatedly until the point at which it was no longer feasible for her to attend classes. She taught me a lot about perseverance. (Fun fact that they’ve both often remarked on as a point of pride: We all went to the same institution, with my mom and I both graduating at the top of our classes.)

Although I finished my formal education 15 years ago, I continue to learn every day. In reflecting on who has influenced my education journey, I came to realize that every position I've held since finishing graduate school has been offered to me by a woman, and the teams I've been on have been led by women. I've had incredible woman mentors and bosses for my entire career.

Blake Curwen, vice president, sales

My mom, Dr. Kathleen Curwen, had the biggest effect on my education and life journey and is no doubt one of the main reasons I'm at ACT. She was a lifelong educator — a teacher and administrator — and while I never had her for class, she'd often take me to her classroom/laboratory to conduct science experiments that completely captured my imagination and made learning fun. Now retired, she does the same experiments today with my kids.

When I took chemistry in high school, she'd spend countless hours with my best friend and me, teaching us chemical compounds on a whiteboard. She made learning fascinating for me — encouraging me to be a lifelong learner and sharing countless stories of her time as an educator and administrator that heavily influenced my decision to join ACT and support our mission almost 12 years ago. Thanks, Mom! 

Tami Streinz, vice president, sales support

My mother has had the biggest effect on my education journey in life. Her love and support have been instrumental in my success.

She always, always believes in me and my ability to succeed even when I'm not so confident that I will, even when she doesn't fully understand the path before me. She believes in me, and that has made all the difference.