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Holly (Byrkeland) Carter, C'13

Matt and Meredith HayesFor Holly (Byrkeland) Carter, choosing a college for her undergrad degree was not a difficult decision because her dad is from Yankton and the city was more like her second home. She has a lot of family that lived and still lives in Yankton. Holly also wanted to continue her softball career and was given a scholarship to play while she was at MMC until a shoulder injury quickly ended her career. She adds with a smile, "Where on earth can you dual major in education and complete all of the required credits within exactly four years - not many places guarantee that!" Also, Holly felt that with the small class sizes and getting into the classroom (within elementary schools) right away first sememster of freshman year, she was able to get to know her professors on a first name basis, created relationships with them, and was able to see how the world of education was going to be like as she was entering it as a profession.

The person who had a positive impact on Holly's career and personal life path at MMC was Sister Candy. Still, to this day, they keep in contact with each other, updating with how their lives are changing, exciting milestones they are both facing. Holly says, "Sister Candy was always there for me whenever I needed advice, a person to talk to, and someone to share stories with. She is a professor who cares about each of her students."

While Holly attended MMC, she had the opportunity to work for the Boys and Girls Club of Yankton for work-study. While she worked for them, Holly would go to the elementary schools in Yankton and help tutor children who needed extra assistance. During that time, she created a relationship with a little girl who needed a woman figure in her life. The relationship she created with her is one she won't forget. Holly never felt obligated or that "she had to go" meet with this girl on a daily basis for an hour or so. Holly felt like "she wanted to go" to see what went on at school that day, how things were going at home, and she just needed to see her smile and any day would feel complete. This little girl was a struggling student - receiving D's/F's. By the time the end of the year came around and the tutoring sessions were coming to an end, she was receiving A's and B's.

During this time, Holly learned not only going into the profession of education that learning is important and kids really need to learn how to be "good students," but also creating personal relationships with each of the kids you interact with is how a kid is going to want to be successful. Showing a child that you truly care about them will motivate them to do whatever it takes to be the best they can be. That's what the little girl did. Without this experience, Holly doesn't think she would have known how important it is to build relationships with students.

After graduation in May, 2013, Holly married her best friend, Keaton Carter, on June 15, 2013. They bought their first home and reside in Ames, IA. They have their lovable fur baby, Chloe, a Siberian Husky, full of life and energy that keeps them busy. In the fall, she started her first teaching job in Jefferson, IA, about 35 miles west of Ames at the Greene County Middle School as a 7th grade special education teacher. Holly had 14 students in her caseload, which is a lot for a first-year teacher. She taught two sections of reading, life skills, and a one-on-one math class to her life skills students.

Holly quickly learned that she did not want to stay in the SPED (special education) field for much longer or at the school she was at. The drive time, the paperwork, the deadlines, etc., began to be too much and she began doubting if she wanted to stay in the education profession. So Holly began looking at other options at the beginning of the new year (Jan 2014). She still remembers telling Sister Candy that she landed a SPED position and Sister Candy told her, "Holly, you are an elementary teacher. You belong in the classroom." Holly took what she said to heart and began weighing her options. Sister Candy knew that she needed to be with kids and needed ot have total control of a group of students all day, every day. She needed to change her environment in addition to putting Christ back into her life on a daily basis. No amount of money was going to bring her happiness where she was and she knew it was time for a change.

Holly always knew how important Catholic education is/was for her and to her. When she was at Jefferson, IA she always had this feeling like she was missing something. As Holly adds, "It was the freedom to talk about God, to pray when I need to, receiving the Eucharist on a weekly basis with the entire school and my students, and the list could go on and on and on." This is how Holly landed her dream job her second year of teaching:

With lots of prayer, researching, and soul searching, she sent her materials to the Catholic school in Ames, IA and Sacred Heart School in Boone, IA (10 miles west of Ames). Within about a month, Holly received an email from the principal at Sacred Heart that there was going to be an opening in the elementary building and she would like Holly to officially apply to have an interview. Needless to say, after her interview, which went awesome, Holly was asked to come back for a second interview to talk some things through. She was offered the job on the spot and she couldn't hold back her excitement! Holly accepted the 2nd grade teaching position.

This change was everything she needed! First of all, her morning/evening commute is 15 minutes instead of 40. And as she happily states, "I am able to talk freely about God. I am completely myself - funny, nerdy, loving - which I was afraid to be last year. I may not be making anything near what I was last year, but God knew I needed a change. Money doesn't bring you happiness. God knew I couldn't keep living the way I was. God knew my faith needed to grow. And in what better way to allow it to grow than to teach religion on a daily basis and have the responsibility and the honor to get children ready to receive their first reconciliation and first Eucharist? My kids are awesome - they make me 'melt' every day, my colleagues have been so welcoming, and the atmosphere of Sacred Heart is everything I could imagine."

At this time, Holly is working on gathering materials to apply for graduate school to receive her master's degree - at Mount Marty. She has the itch to go back to school and it was her goal to have her master's completed by the time she was 29. She is on pace to have it completed by the time she is 26. Holly stated, "I am so excited to go back 'home' and begin the cirriculum and instruction program. Now, I just need to finish my application!"