Fran Parker graduated from Saint Rose with a master's degree in special education in 1970. She credits the College with enabling her to touch the lives of countless students throughout what she describes and an incredibly rewarding career as a teacher.
Recently, she had some financial good fortune and decided the best thing she could do was to help a new generation of students preparing to go into the field of special education. Through the Fran Parker G’70 Scholarship, she has provided support to seven grateful Saint Rose students, including Ashanti’ Bishop ’22.
“My passion for education comes from believing that knowledge is not only a right, but a power,” Bishop says. “Like Ms. Parker, I hope to share that power with my students and make a positive difference in their lives.”
As a child, Parker said she dreamed of becoming a teacher. She loved notepads, pencils, stars, and making up practice worksheets for her imaginary students. She received her bachelor’s in education from UMass Amherst in 1966 and started as a substitute teacher in the North Colonie School District outside Albany, New York, where she was later offered a permanent position as a third grade teacher. During those early years, she found herself especially drawn to working with the students who struggled the most with the curriculum and found her passion in helping them to succeed.
At the time, special education was a new field, and Parker says Saint Rose was at the cutting edge of the discipline and offered evening and summer classes to accommodate working teachers. After graduating and a few more years teaching in North Colonie, Parker relocated to Macomb, Illinois, where she started a family and took some time off to concentrate on being a mom. After the passage of Public Law 94-142 in 1975, now named the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Parker jumped back into teaching, opening a class for students with developmental and learning disabilities.
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Parker later moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where she was charged with setting up a resource room and providing reading and math services to students in the Ruby Thomas Elementary School. She found the grade-level books lacking and was inspired to create her own simple, child-size books that were easier for her students to read and master.
“I had such a fulfilling and rewarding career as a teacher.”
Other teachers used her books with much success, so Parker decided to start her own company, Teddy Bear Press, which continues to publish her books and promote her program for beginning readers. Parker’s teaching career spanned 36 years. She had the opportunity to work with elementary, middle, and high school students and is grateful for the rich experiences that allowed her to grow alongside her students. She remains fascinated by the way our society changes, how the education of students evolves, and how technology is developed to meet the needs of an ever-growing, diverse population.
Most important to her, she says, are the wonderful, lasting friendships she developed over the years.
“I had such a fulfilling and rewarding career as a teacher,” she says. “Establishing a scholarship gave the me the opportunity to share that and help today’s Saint Rose students as they enter this exciting and evolving field.”