Pulaski County is home to many fascinating people and the Daily Guide recently talked with one of these people. Thirty one years of teaching, finding innovative ways to encourage and inspire students to succeed in math, and ten years of rescuing Great Pyrenees are part of what makes Candice West a fascinating person.
Candice and her mentor, Garry Quast, chairman of the elementary education department at Slippery Rock University, shared a vision, “Every child can succeed in mathematics. “
That vision and a connection with a Great Pyrenees Candice met when she was 5 years old, shaped her life and her goals in the years to come.
Candice West retired in June of this year from Waynesville School District and her 31 year teaching career. “I thoroughly enjoy retirement because it allows me to spend time doing things that are really important to me. Dog rescue is one of those.”
Candice was born in southern California. She lived in Texas while her mom finished up her PhD at Texas Tech.
She then moved to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, with her mom, who had found employment in the psychology department at Slippery Rock University.
Candice said moving to Slippery Rock was like putting on a comfortable shoe. She is still in touch with many of her friends and said Slippery Rock will always be home to her.
Candice attended Slippery Rock University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in education and later her Masters of Science in math with a minor in gifted education.
Candice said the educators at Slippery Rock were phenomenal educators, especially in in math. That's where Candice said she got bitten by the “math bug.” Dr. Garry Quast was a tough, but encouraging professor with very high expectations for Candice. He and Candice shared a vision “every child can succeed in mathematics.” Quast continued encouraging, advising, and mentoring Candice throughout her teaching career.
Candice's travels took her to Albuquerque, New Mexico. She taught first grade at a Catholic school, and it was there that she met her future husband, John, a middle school science teacher.
From 1994 to 1996 Candice worked through the University of New Mexico, throughout central New Mexico, as field representative for the National Science Foundation. She traveled to schools and trained teachers on how to use the latest math and science curriculum. “It was an extraordinary job.”
Candice and John left Albuquerque in 1996 to return to John’s home state, Missouri.
Candice resumed teaching first grade at Pick Elementary. “My heart was never happier than when I was in the classroom.”
She was a title one math specialist at the old Wood Elementary, a position she just loved. Candice also spent two years teaching math enrichment to gifted ( very smart ) students.
While working as a title one math specialist it became more and more apparent to her that “any child could learn something if it's presented in a way that makes sense to them”
One of the things Candice learned from her decades of teaching is that science and math are the two subjects that children come to school with an inherent understanding of because they have used science and math since birth to organize and understand their world.
She started wondering what causes kids, by 5th grade, to be so frustrated by math and science. With that question always on her mind she began research and it became clear to her that some kids could benefit from a different kind of education.
So, about 10 years ago, the vision of Beyond the Walls was born. The vision didn't materialize until 5 years ago. Beyond the Walls started as a mobile tutoring lab for children struggling in math. Candice commented, “I was really happy to see kids, who were once struggling, succeeding in math. It's been an amazing ride.”
Candice is not only a “ rescuer” of kids struggling with math, she also rescues dogs.
Candice said, “My destiny is to help all two and four legged kids.”
She has always loved animals and after moving to Missouri was in a position to rescue.
Candice was five years old when she met her first Great Pyrenees. “We were eye to eye and the dog touched my soul. I had no idea how powerful the memory would be.”
After settling in Missouri, she remembered that moment and that connection. She found out about Loving Paws from a colleague at work and started volunteering there.
Linus was her first Great Pyrenees rescue. He was named so because he always carried his blanket around.
She has had many rescues since Linus, but she said, “Linus will always be my heart dog.”
What are Candice’s future plans?
Candice will be training her new Great Pyrenees puppy, Nana, to work as a therapy dog at Beyond the Walls. As a therapy dog, Nana will provide comfort and companionship for the students.
Candice will continue to “develop the dream” of seeing Beyond the Walls grow from a mobile based unit to a S.T.E M (science, technology, engineering, math) based school. The school, modeled after the Finnish style schools, will be a place of learning where children can develop their dreams and build a lifelong foundation for curiosity and learning.
Beyond the Walls is in the early stages of planning and development, but Candice and a group of dedicated individuals from the world of education and the community are working to make that dream a reality.
And, Candice said, “I will continue to fulfill my destiny by helping all children and helping all of God’s creatures, whether two legged or four legged kids.”
Candice will always be an educator and rescuer, inspiring and helping others with her ideas and plans.