Alexis Petrak

Alexis Petrak

Alexis Petrak is one of those lucky people who found what she truly loves to do and is pursuing that career path.

“My passion is to advocate for individuals who may not have a voice, and I can accomplish that by teaching students with special needs,” Petrak says. “I want to teach my students how to advocate for themselves and be active members of the community.”

Back when she was attending Mt. Juliet High School, Petrak became a peer tutor and discovered that she enjoyed teaching. When she came to East Tennessee State University, she tried another field, but job shadowing taught her that she preferred the long-term contact that is typical of a special education teacher.

“I did my student teaching in the fall semester at Unicoi County High School,” Petrak says. “I loved my placement. Not only was the setting among the mountains beautiful, but I worked with a principal and staff who are enthusiastic supporters of students with special needs. My student teaching helped me see that high school students are the ones I most enjoy teaching.”

Petrak goes beyond the classroom, though. She assists the Arc of Washington County by providing respite care on Friday nights for care givers of individuals with disabilities.

 As part of her interest in teaching, Petrak joined Kappa Delta Pi, the education honor society, which she now serves as president. “I am very proud of our chapter,” she says. “We attend a convocation every two years and consistently bring home honors as a top chapter within the organization. But there are other rewards. As future teachers, we network and provide support for each other during our student teaching days.”

In order to learn how to better advocate for others, Petrak participated in the 2013 inaugural class of the Dr. Brenda White Wright Emerging Leaders Academy, established to “identify, encourage and equip emerging student leaders with skills, knowledge and experience to lead at ETSU and beyond.”

“I learned so much during an ‘advance’ and six weeks of training,” Petrak notes. “A ‘retreat’ suggests a step backward, so we had an ‘advance,’ which is a step forward. We were taught leadership skills, how to work with others effectively and what the concept of ‘servant leadership’ involves. Our Academy class became very close and we still keep up with each other.”

An ETSU Student Government Association senator, Petrak was also the president of Buctainment and the first Weekend Planner. “Our goal is to offer so many great things to do on campus that students will stay during weekends rather than go home. One of the most satisfying moments of my life was watching comedian Kenan Thompson walk onto the stage and know I had helped bring him here.”

Equipped with knowledge, skills and a desire to help others, Petrak says when she graduates, “I would be willing to go wherever a job takes me, but I love where I am right now and can’t imagine any place better.”

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