Christina McElwee '05 & '08
English, Education-Elem Middle Teaching, Education - Literacy Studies
Grand Rapids Community College, Associate Professor
1. Tell us about your journey since graduation.
Shortly after graduating with a BA in English with an emphasis on Elementary Education, I was offered my first teaching job in Muskegon, MI. As a Grand Rapids native, who has always been devoted to serving the local community, I was a bit hesitant to accept this offer. But, as a teacher just starting out, I knew I couldn’t be picky. In the fall of 2005, I began teaching 2nd grade at Marquette Elementary. Throughout my tenure at Marquette Elementary, I was also able to teach 1st grade, 3rd grade, high school Reading, and serve as a Literacy Coach. It was during this time, I also completed my Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis on Literacy Studies/Reading Specialist. During the last semester of my graduate program, my professor asked if I would be interested in teaching a course as an adjunct at Grand Valley. I knew it would be a significant change from the little ones I was used to, but I never back down from a challenge. During the winter of 2009, I taught my first class as an adjunct, while still living and working full-time in Muskegon. Though the first few classes were a bit rough, due to being so close in age to the students, I eventually began to enjoy it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, in 2011 I applied for a full-time tenure track position at Grand Rapids Community College. I moved back to Grand Rapids and began teaching full-time as a member of GRCC’s English Department in the fall of 2011. In addition to teaching a variety of courses, I have also presented at multiple national conferences on topics such as assessment, developmental education, curriculum development, and multidisciplinary studies. I received tenure in 2015. From 2016 to 2018, I assumed the role of Director of Faculty Development at GRCC. In this role, I served the college by developing a New Faculty Mentor Program, planning large-scale college-wide professional development, creating a variety of learning series’ to best meet the needs of faculty and staff, and building connections with other colleges in Michigan. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a genetic disease that causes cysts to form on your kidneys and reduces kidney function. I soon became a member of the PKD Foundation, and in 2016 I planned the annual Michigan PKD Walk to raise money for and awareness of the disease. I continue to be an active member and staunch advocate of the PKD Foundation. In 2021, I started Teal Couch Consulting LLC, a small consulting agency that focuses on technical and professional writing, graphic design, and personalized workshops, and professional development. I never imagined that I would become a small business owner. As a woman of color, suffering from a chronic illness, I often felt like the odds were stacked against me. This business is definitely evidence of overcoming the struggles that I’ve encountered on my journey.
2. Share a favorite Grand Valley memory.
One of my favorite memories from Grand Valley was being a part of the GVSU Dance Troupe. I had never taken any type of organized dance classes prior but soon fell in love with the art of dance. I still dance both recreationally and competitively today.
3. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.” ~Brené Brown
4. List three words you would use to describe your Grand
Growth Rewarding Inspiring
5. What difference would you like to make in the world?
I feel that my profession is much more than just a job, it's a calling. I've been called to inspire people to be their best selves through education, professional development, and self-discovery. I want other people to feel just as empowered as I feel and spread the idea that no matter what circumstances may come into your life, you can still achieve your goals.