Missouri State University

Lu Hawkins

Born to be a teacher

“I would like to be dedicating my life to education.”  

Lu Hawkins inherited her father's interests. “He would read to me and tell me beautiful stories," she remembers.

She eagerly looked forward to her first day of school. “I had my backpack, my school supplies ready for so long before. I loved to be in school.”

Even as she thrived in class, though, economic volatility rocked her home country, Brazil. “My father lost financial security,” she says. “We went from having our own house to having to live with my grandmother.”

The beginning of a dream

Despite these early setbacks, Lu's devotion to learning continued. Through a chance meeting, she developed a relationship with a well-known writer and teacher, someone who “saw abilities and potential that I didn’t know I had. She said, ‘Let’s not be satisfied; let’s look for the best.’”

Lu hoped to follow in her mentor’s footsteps. But college was hardly guaranteed, and sometimes seemed out of reach. She could either test into one of Brazil’s free, public colleges – a feat so difficult that only a small percentage of students manage it – or pay for a private institution. 

Unexpected obstacles

"I’m stronger than ever – not only physically but emotionally, and I can say I’m proud of what I did."

After years of work and dedication, she enrolled in a university. Newly married, Lu seemed to be on the path to her dreams, and in a joyful surprise, she learned she was pregnant. But then she discovered she also had bone cancer.

She delayed treatment until after her son’s birth, and her progress was painful. Over the course of a year, she endured numerous surgeries, including two hip replacements. “I had to drop out of school,” she remembers. “It was heartbreaking.”

Years later, Lu returned to college – this time at Missouri State in her husband’s hometown. She was finally pursuing her degree in education. But the cancer returned, and it was in her lungs.

“I thought, ‘Not again. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get my degree…’ And I had people in the College of Education who really supported me... I lost a quarter of my lung, but I overcame.” 

A dream realized 

Lu credits the support of the College of Education and Springfield Public Schools with helping her complete her BSEd in Elementary Education under such difficult circumstances. 

Now, Lu is living her dream as a first grade teacher. And she's still the eager learner who can't wait for school; she's working toward her MSEd in Literacy.

She says, "I never dreamed about having a master’s… And now I can say that I’m dreaming about having a doctorate, which is beyond any expectations I’ve had before.”  

Financial support from the Graduate College has helped Lu pursue her master's degree. As the recipient of the Graduate Scholarship for Enhancing Diversity, she finds plenty of reasons to bring her multicultural experiences into her classroom.

"At our school," she says, "globalization is just part of the curriculum. I feel like I'm free to be who I am... My students love it because I teach them Portuguese and Spanish, which is a second language in our school. They are proud to say that their teacher is from Brazil."