Isaiah Garnett first noticed a sign for Emmanuel College when his family moved from Fredericksburg, Va. to Atlanta when he was 18. Although he didn’t think much of it at the time, Emmanuel College and the community would go on to make a huge impact on his life, and vice versa.
“Everything about Emmanuel was new to me,” he said. “I had never been to a more rural area.”
15 years later, Isaiah is preparing to graduate in May from Emmanuel with an English Education degree.
His journey to graduation is unlike most, as he took a 10-year hiatus before returning to the halls of the college.
Now, his sights are set on finding his own classroom, where he hopes to make an impact, one student at a time.
“I think that serving in education allows you to empower others,” he said. “It allows you to give the same opportunity or option to utilize the educational system as a means of ascension economically and socially.”
When Isaiah first decided on becoming a teacher, movies like “Stand and Deliver,” “Freedom Writers,” and “To Sir with Love,” were his reference to what teaching would look like.
“I fell into that mindset,” he said. “I quickly realized the real thing is nothing like the movies.”
At Emmanuel, Isaiah found a community and believes the small class sizes have not only helped him retain information but better connect with his classmates and professors.
“I believe that students who feel a part of a community as opposed to being a number in a lecture hall stand a better chance of retaining the information they’re taught,” he said. “Not because of the content, but because of the connection and accessibility of the instructors. The connection lends itself to students wanting to be more invested in the curriculum because you can see that the teachers care about their students.”
Alongside teaching, Isaiah hopes to continue to capitalize on the gift God has given him in writing.
“I feel like I write well,” he said. “I think that writing is a great medium for empathy and if there is anything that we all need in these days and times it’s understanding.”
The father of four is thankful to have friends and mentors who have poured into his life, but as a student at Emmanuel, his boss and academic advisor have made the greatest impact on him.
“Ms. Denise Woodall and Dr. Sarah Petrovic have been the greatest supporters and encouragers during my time at Emmanuel,” he said. “I’ve worked very closely with them both my entire time at Emmanuel, and I wouldn’t have made it this far without them.”
Outside of the classroom, Isaiah has been involved both on campus and in the local community.
“One of the biggest things I do is go to parks and recreation games for my kids,” he said. “If there’s ever an opportunity to volunteer at some of the amazing local organizations, I try to do so. On campus, I’ve had the privilege of working with the Black Student Union, Student Senate, Commuter Council, and various other initiatives.
As he moves on to the next chapter, what advice would Isaiah give to other non-traditional students looking to complete their degrees?
“Take it a day at a time,” he said. “Look at it as an investment and always trust God.”