The day after graduating from high school, 18-year-old Mandy Hinshaw sat in her car. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and walked quickly into the military recruiting office to join the Army. She was ready for a new adventure, and after growing up in a military family, she saw the Army as a pathway to adventure and opportunity.
Thirteen years later, after multiple relocations and two tours of duty to Germany and Iraq, Hinshaw is ready to take on her next challenge — becoming a teacher.
Currently a senior in the Baylor School of Education, Hinshaw is majoring in Elementary Education with concentrations in Gifted and Talented and English as a Second Language (ESL).
Hinshaw sees similarities between the military and teaching every day and believes that the military life prepared her to become a teacher. Lessons like how to build a community of learners are lessons that don’t have to be learned in a classroom, she said.
“In basic training, you meet people from all walks of life, and you have to learn to work with them,” she said. “In the classroom, you have to meet your kids where they are and work with them as well.”
Hinshaw spent over eight years in the military as an E-5 sergeant, starting at Fort Hood, deploying overseas, and finally ending her military career at Fort Bragg.
“Medicine was something that had always interested me, so I got to work as a part of the medic field units, helping those who were injured or sick,” Hinshaw said.
While Hinshaw enjoyed her time in the military, she knew when it was time to go.
“The military felt like home — until it didn’t,” she said.
Hoping to continue her interest in medicine, Hinshaw started college in North Carolina in a pre-medical program. But after her first year of college, Hinshaw visited Waco, where her sister and brother-in-law were living. One day, she went for a run and ended up going down the Bear Trail.
“It’s definitely by the grace of God that I ended up here today,” Hinshaw said. “After my run, I went to fill out an application to Baylor, and here I am.”
Hinshaw knew that starting college would be difficult, but she wasn’t quite prepared for the challenge that she faced. Questions about the future and her identity began to build up.
“I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said the transition from life in the military to life as a college student is a challenge.
“The military is strict — you have certain things you have to wear and have to do — but in college you have all of these choices,” she said. “It was sort of overwhelming.”
Once she joined Baylor’s Veteran Educational and Transition Services (VETS) program, Hinshaw began to meet people who could ease the transition from the military to the Baylor community. Last year, Hinshaw served as the president of the Veterans of Baylor student organization. Through those programs, she met Baylor VETS founder Dr. Janet Bagby, a senior lecturer in the SOE’s Department of Educational Psychology, who teaches classes in Gifted and Talented Education.
“Dr. Bagby helped me in fitting in and feeling at home; she really helped me find a supportive community,” Hinshaw said.
Bagby had conducted extensive academic research on student veterans like Hinshaw, and she founded the VETS program so that student veterans can find the community they need to be successful at Baylor.
“Mandy has become a great resource for other student veterans looking for a welcoming community,” Bagby said.
After a tough transition, Hinshaw has fully acclimated to life at Baylor.
“There’s a great camaraderie in the School of Education,” Hinshaw said. “Our academic cohort gets smaller and smaller each year, which is nice.”
Hinshaw is currently serving in the traditional yearlong internship for seniors in the School of Education, teaching at Woodway Elementary School. She also taught last summer in the SOE’s Math for Early Learners Academy, a four-week early-intervention program for students entering kindergarten and first grade.
“I love elementary-aged children,” she said. “They love to learn, and they want to learn.”
Hinshaw is the first to say that she hasn’t taken the most common path to becoming a teacher, but she’s happy with where she is today.
“It may not have been traditional, but it’s been the perfect fit for me,” she said.
—By Olivia Berry