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April 26, 2017
Samantha Pinto saw the value in pursuing education during her youth growing up in India and Saudi Arabia. Now, after fulfilling her goals in America, she is ready to share her knowledge as a professional teacher.
This spring, Pinto graduates from Northwest Missouri State University with a master’s degree in special education -- an achievement she calls her proudest moment to this point in her life.
“I’ve come such a long way and I’ve learned so much from all my professors, my friends and everyone in the program,” she said. “I came to Northwest not knowing anything about education but knowing I had a passion for it.”
Pinto’s family moved from Goa, India, to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when she was 10. At age 15, Pinto left her family to pursue a high school education in the United States, and she credits her parents’ support as a major reason for her success.
“I always had a dream to come to this side of the world and I’ve always been an independent type,” she said. “I did all my research and did research on high schools. I gave my application to my dad to mail, and he just said, ‘Well, all right,’ and it was just a shot in the dark.”
After graduating from a Pennsylvania high school, Pinto completed a bachelor’s degree in biology and art at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. But she wasn’t finished.
While searching for master’s degree offerings in special education, Pinto learned about Northwest from a friend who recommended the University and suggested it offered the best path to a degree.
“None of the other universities told me that I needed prerequisites to get my certification in elementary education,” Pinto said. “Northwest was very honest with me and told me, ‘This is what you need to do. This will be the plan and this is where you need to go on from here to get your master’s degree.’ That’s why I chose Northwest.”
Pinto, who says she was “the quiet one” in her classrooms growing up, struggled initially to break out of her shell at Northwest. Faculty members helped ease her out of her comfort zone, though, and Pinto began to find her voice as a future educator.
“Every professor that I’ve had has made it very smooth and very comfortable,” she said. “They are all so helpful and they are always there for you. If you do have any struggles, you just ask them what you need to do and they help you through every step of the process.”
Pinto also is appreciative of the training Northwest’s School of Education offers. The School provides numerous opportunities to gain profession-based experience in the classrooms of its Horace Mann Laboratory School and schools in partner districts.
“There is nothing like getting into the classroom and implementing your strategies and observing students and how they are progressing,” Pinto said. “Other universities and colleges don’t have that experience where you get to go into the classroom or observe and work with all these different students and understand what diversity means.”
Pinto added, “The professors take students on field trips to different schools around Missouri, and those trips are life-changing and eye-opening. You get to see different districts and how they operate, and you get to see kids from a variety of backgrounds. You get to see all aspects of the spectrum, and it’s a wonderful experience.”
Those kinds of experiences at Northwest helped Pinto land her “dream job.” Next fall, she will begin teaching special education in the Shawnee Mission (Kansas) School District.
Educating children with special needs is a role and responsibility Pinto takes seriously.
“They have just as much potential to get anywhere in life,” Pinto said. “They just need that extra help and I’ve always been that person who wants to help everyone else. That’s what I want to do. This was perfect for me, wanting to understand every disability in the world and understand what these kids need and be there to help them achieve.”
As Pinto progresses in her career and has aspirations of one day earning a doctorate degree, she says she won’t soon forget the Northwest community and all of the individuals who mentored her.
“I really wouldn’t be here without everyone in the education department,” Pinto said. “They have done so much for me and made this experience one of the best experiences for me. It’s unforgettable.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468