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Tanner DeBellis

Extracurricular activities: Chapter Leader of Students For Education Reform; Clarinet player for Wake Forest’s Spirit Of the Old Gold and Black Marching Band; and Resident Adviser

Q: Why did you decide to major in biology?
A: I dreamed of becoming a doctor, but everything changed when I signed up for an education policy and practice class. Somewhere between learning about No Child Left Behind, Brown v. Board of Education and school choice, I realized that I wanted to go into education. I joined Students For Education Reform, interned with Teach For America and taught middle school chemistry for the summer with Breakthrough Santa Fe. Instead of majoring in biology to become a doctor, I majored in biology to become a science teacher.

Q: You enjoy graphic design and art, how might you use these as a teacher?
A: While working with biology professor Pat Lord to create flyers and logos for Wake Forest’s Pre-Health Professions program, I developed skills in graphic design that will easily translate to the classroom. I can create flyers for school events and design a website for parents and students. In addition, I can teach my students how to use different web programs to design posters and reports for classroom assignments.

Q: Did you have a mentor during your time at Wake Forest?
A: The art and design skills I learned from my work study with professor Lord pale in comparison to the life skills I learned from her as a mentor. I struggled during my first year at Wake Forest because I had never been in such a challenging academic environment, and I was far from home. As a first-generation student, I was overwhelmed by my classes and had no idea how to study or manage my time. Professor Lord connected me with successful students and constantly encouraged me to keep going. Without her support, my Wake Forest experience would not have been the same. I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from such a brilliant and compassionate professor.

Q: What is your favorite Wake Forest tradition?
A: Wake ‘N Shake, of course! Although a 12-hour dance marathon to raise money for cancer research sounds like an immense amount of fun, it also provides a time for individuals who are experiencing the effects of cancer to find hope and honor the loved ones in their lives who have cancer. Several years ago, my pastor’s wife passed away due to a brain tumor, and last spring my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. Being able to attend Wake ‘N Shake and hear others share about their struggles with cancer has had a profound impact on me.

Q: What was your most interesting class and why?
A: The classes outside of my area of study have proven to be some of the most thought-provoking courses I have taken at Wake Forest. Studies in American Literature was quite the memorable English class. On the first day of the course, professor Hans read over his roster and saw how very few of his students were majoring in English. Knowing this, he made the novels relevant to different disciplines. However, this was not what made the class the most memorable. In addition to making the novels more authentic, professor Hans shared witty anecdotes and created clever nicknames for several of his students. For example, a student majoring in mathematical economics became known as “Mec.”

Q: What are your post-graduation plans?
A: While interning for Teach For America and Breakthrough, I found that the best way to make an impact is within the classroom and through every student. I will be looking for a teaching position in Forsyth County. I am excited to reinvest my education back into the community and start a life in Winston-Salem with my fiancé.

Q: What education reform would you most want to implement?
A: The educational system is a reflection of American society. As a result, educational problems are complex, multi-faceted, and oftentimes rooted in systemic societal issues. Solving one issue may not do much to improve the whole system, but I believe cutting back on standardized testing and reducing class sizes would be a great place to start.

Q: In what ways has your Wake Forest experience surprised you?
A: You can still have a social life without being Greek. During freshman year, my roommate and I decided not to rush. We both ended up forging friendships that will last us a lifetime, and I do not regret my decision.

Q: What is your best advice for freshmen?
A: Choose one day of the week, any day, to take a break and recharge. Wake Forest does not always have to be “Work” Forest. There is so much to do on- and off-campus! You can explore Winston-Salem, play club sports or join a campus organization. Do not be afraid to get involved and find your own niche because there will definitely be a place for you.