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Featured Spotlight

A Google search leads alumna to new career helping children with speech and language

February 7, 2013

Andrea Brewer Spotlight Photo
Andrea Brewer (left, standing) poses with Dawn Faircloth, special education teacher, and two of their third grade students at North Elementary School in Colonial Heights, Va.

After graduating from Virginia Tech with her bachelor’s degree, Andrea Brewer M.S. ’10 began a career in medical sales, selling medical devices to vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists. Although she liked the flexibility of her job, something was missing.

"I did a Google search for ‘jobs with a high degree of job satisfaction,’" Brewer said. "And I found speech-language pathology."

While continuing her work in Richmond, Brewer began planning a new course for her life and started researching graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders. She wanted to be able to attend classes without moving, and she was looking for a program that had the right combination of course work and clinical experience. Getting her master’s degree at Longwood seemed like the perfect fit.

"As a graduate student at Longwood, I was challenged beyond what I thought I was capable of," she said. "One of my first clinical placements was in an elementary school doing speech and language screenings. That first experience interacting with children was refreshing and made me realize I wanted a career working in a public school setting."

Looking back on her experiences in the program, Brewer said she is thankful for how much personal interaction she had with her professors. And while sometimes the work load and requirements of the program drove her crazy, she appreciates how it was all designed to teach her what she needed to know to succeed in the profession.

During Brewer’s last semester, she applied for a speech-language pathologist position with Colonial Heights Public Schools and began work one month after graduating. She now spends her days working at two elementary schools, and she loves being able to take part in the progress her students make.

"I am constantly watching my students and listening for information," she said. "I try to always encourage and praise them for focusing, thinking and working hard. One of the best things about this career is getting to work with the same students for more than one school year and getting to see them change and grow."

Wanting to continuously grow in her own career, Brewer recently completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in disability policy through the Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program with Virginia Commonwealth University and the Partnership for People with Disabilities. The federally funded, advanced-level leadership education program involves professionals from many fields who work with children with disabilities. Through seminars in teamwork and leadership, as well as interdisciplinary community clinics, the program allowed Brewer to learn from the families of children with disabilities outside of a school environment.

"I’m a big believer that if you don’t like something, change it," she said. "If you don’t like what you’re doing, do something different."