Alumni Success Stories

Alumni Spotlight - Roda Shope, '94

After graduating from GVSU in 1994, I embarked on my teaching adventure with Rockford Public Schools. After 20+ inspirational years in the world of elementary education, I decided I was determined to make my lifelong dream a reality...

As a young girl, wearing braids and a bucket hat, I had a passion for beautiful blooms and buzzing bees. I would find myself mesmerized for hours in my father’s garden, attempting to capture these brilliant creatures with my simple Kodak camera.  Although the majority of my photos returned blurry, I persevered! It was my hope to one day create a safe haven for these amazing and beneficial creatures. In 2014, after many years of dreaming, researching and planning, Indigo Acres Apiary was established.  

Indigo Acres Apiary is nestled on 13 beautiful acres in Rockford, Michigan, filled with pollinator gardens and humming with the voices of sweet honeybees and local pollinators. Our motto is simple, “Plant a Flower, Save a Bee."

I share my passion for the education and preservation of all pollinators, through Indigo Acres Apiary’s educational services.  There is nothing more exciting than observing children being inspired through a wildflower/pollinator hunt or a family in bee suits, exploring the inside of a honey bee colony. 

1/3 of the food we eat is thanks to these amazing creatures. Pollinators are currently in decline, due to loss of habitat, leaving less foraging space. The application of pesticides is another contributing factor. Insecticides, used to control pests in crops, is weakening and even destroying our beneficial pollinators. It is my goal to spread awareness and inspire others to create positive changes, that support all pollinators.  

I still spread knowledge daily, through written and spoken word,  just in a different environment. Although my educational space is now filled with beautiful blooms and buzzing bees, I continue to incorporate many elements of my English degree, throughout my small business. From writing educational programming and marketing materials, to developing social media and website content, my degree continues to support my daily interactions with individuals locally and beyond. 

Most days, you will find me (still in braids and a bucket hat) capturing and sharing the life of these magnificent creatures, through art, macro photography, and educational sessions. Let’s BEE inspired together! 

For more information, visit  You can also find Indigo Acres Apiary on Instagram and Facebook

Roda Shope with bees


  • Alexander Childs (2022) has been accepted into Cornerstone's Grand Rapids Theological Seminary for their Masters of Divinity program and was just awarded their Pirsig Fellowship Scholarship
  • Ben Sparks (2019, MA-AL) has been awarded a placement by the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program for 2019-2020. This highly competitive program places young professionals in language teaching positions in schools throughout Japan.
  • Maggie Brown (2018) teaches first grade at Gladiola Elementary School in Wyoming, MI
  • Julia Dang (2018) will begin her job at Colegio Americano de Torreón as their ninth grade English Language Arts teacher in the Fall of 2018. This school is located in Torreón, Mexico. The program includes a college preparatory curriculum taught primarily in English, and upon graduation students receive an American High School diploma and the Mexican Bachillerato diploma. 
  • Connor Huizenga (2018) began teaching eighth-grade ELA at Memphis Business Academy in the fall of 2018. 
  • Jen Klug (2018, English MA) published a scholarly article in ImageTexT journal. "'It's Sad, But Not Crazy': Memory as Construction/Performance in Graphic Memoirs." 
  • Tatianna Spencer (2018) is teaching fifth grade students at Godfrey Elementary, where she completed her student teaching.
  • Sarah Chanski (2017, MA) is currently a doctoral student in the Rhetoric and Public Culture program at Northwestern University.
  • Sarah Cullip (2017) is now an English Language Learning Specialist at the United World College in Maastricht, The Netherlands.
  • Stephanie Gamble (2017) recently accepted a position with Kalamazoo Public Schools as a 4th/5th grade split teacher. She will be at Arcadia Elementary, a diverse school with over a dozen different languages represented.
  • Liz (Cappo) Pafford (2017) has been accepted into the English Literature, Cultural Theory, and Social Practice PhD Program at Kent State. She will also be teaching part time at Bryant & Stratton College.
  • Shukri Bana (2016) won a Fulbright scholarship to spend nine months in South Africa working as an English teacher.
  • Kyle Letot (2016) accepted a position teaching English at Wickenburg High School in Arizona.  In the Fall of 2017, she will be teaching English in South Korea.
  • Carson Ratliffe (2016) is teaching English at the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
  • Caitlin Ryske (2016) is teaching English at the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
  • Anne Weston (2016) was hired to teach eighth-grade English at Mattawan Middle School.
  • Austin Phillips (2015) is working at Grand Valley State University in the Regional Math and Science Center as an Assistant Program Coordinator part-time. He is also working at Kent District Library as an Adult Librarian and completed his MLIS in August 2018.
  • Isiah F. Dodd (2015) is an English minor who is currently working as and ELA interventionist in Chicago.  He has been accepted in an M.Ed program in Curriculum/Instruction and Elementary Education at DePaul University
  • Andrea Fabbro (2015) has been accepted to the MA program in English at the University of New Mexico. Her studies will focus on critical theory, ecocriticism, and the general topic of literature and environment. Andrea was also the 2014 recipient of the GVSU English Department's Outstanding Major award.
  • Casey (McCullen) Weeks (2015) was an English Language Arts major, participated in the Maastricht Study Abroad Program, and graduated in December 2015.  She now teaches 3rd grade at South Elementary in Coopersville Public Schools
  • Valerie Skubick (2015) has been admitted to the M.Ed Program in Higher Education at Oakland University beginning Fall 2015.
  • Alison Taylor (2015) is the Adult Services Manager at Spring Lake District Library.  She is also pursuing her Master's in Library Science.
  • Lauren Ashley Garrigan (M.Ed. TESOL, 2014, GVSU) has been awarded a fellowship for 2019-2020 by the EL Fellows Program, an exchange offered jointly through the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University. This competitive program places highly-qualified U.S. educators in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in 10-month fellowships at academic institutions across the world. Ashley has been placed at a university in India. Starting in August, she will be teaching English at Ahmedabad University, in Ahmedabad, the largest city in the western state of Gujarat. Ashley graduated from GVSU in 2014 with a master's degree from the joint English Department–College of Education M.Ed. TESOL program. She is currently an Instructional Designer at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, where she has been working for the past two years. 
  • Erik Baker (2014) is a third grade teacher at Stratton Meadows Elementary in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 
  • Anne Giocondini (2014) is teaching English in Ukraine on a Fulbright scholarship.
  • Mark Jemerson (2014) obtained a graduate degree (MS) in Library and Information Science at Simmons College in Boston, MA.  After graduation there, he returned to Grand Rapids to take a job as the Teen and Youth Librarian at Grand Rapids Public Library, where he’s already formed a Teen Council for the library and is working on expanding the library’s collection of graphic novels.  
  • Linsey Devries (2013) is an editorial assistant at Zondervan Publishing working in the Zonderkidz Bibles division.
  • Bree Gannon (2013) is working on an MA at Michigan State University its Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures program, with a focus on Critical Literacy and Pedagogy.
  • Graham Liddell (2013) spent a year working for a Palestinian news agency in Bethlehem and has just been hired as a reporter for the British website Middle East Eye
  • Philip Savage (2013) will complete his MA from Western Michigan University in 2015. He has been accepted into the Ph.D program in English Literature at the University of Washington
  • Abby Franks (2012) is teaching middle school English at the American International School in Kuwait.  She has also working on an MA in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education through the University of Indiana-Bloomington
  • Kristina Pepelko (2012) works as a freelance writer and editor for small business and nonprofit clients as well as entrepreneurs. Previously, she worked as Development Manager for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. 
  • Melanie Rabine (2012) is a Writing Specialist at the Meijer Writing Center.  
  • Becki West Keur has a Masters in Ed and teaches at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, AZ.
  • Dan Slane (2011) is in the Peace Corps, teaching English in Cambodia.  He and his students recently produced a video about their experiences.


  • Lisa Domke (2006) taught elementary for eight years at West Ottawa Public Schools, most recently as a second grade Spanish Immersion teacher.  She received her MA from GVSU in 2010 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education with specializations in ESL and in Language and Literacy Education at Michigan State University.
  • Jennifer Perkins (2005) is the Manager for Curriculum and Instruction for National Heritage Academies Charter Schools National Headquarters. She oversees curriculum for 84 schools in 9 states. 
  • Joseph Haughey (2003) received his PhD in English from Western Michigan University and is now teaches English Education at Northwest Missouri State.  


  • Paul Clemens (1995) has published two works of investigative journalism (Made in Detroit and Punching Out: A Year in a Closing Auto Plant).  He has also appeared on The Daily Show.
  • Tara Star Johnson (1993) graduated with a degree in English (Secondary Education Emphasis). She received her PhD from the University of Georgia in 2005 and NCTE's Promising Researcher Award in 2007. Tara is an associate professor of English Education at Purdue University and currently serves also as co-editor of one of NCTE's mainstay journals, English Education

Page last modified March 30, 2022