Icing on the cake: Pursuing passions through education
For many students, coming to college is about learning brand new skills, managing a budget, and maintaining a living space all on their own. For senior family and consumer science (FCS) teacher education major Abbey Testin, those skills are what shaped her future career and led to a fulfilling journey making her mark at Illinois State.
Testin realized her love for her chosen field very early in her high school career. “I took my first foods class my freshman year of high school, interior design the next year, and thought, ‘Wow these classes are really fun,'” said Testin. “Around my sophomore year of high school I realized FCS teacher ed is what I wanted to do—it combines all the things I’m interested in, plus education is a steady career. I’m getting to impact students’ lives every day, teaching them all the things I know and love.”
Once she made that decision, determining where to go to college was fairly easy. “Not a lot of places offer my major, so my mom always said ‘If you want to be an FCS teacher, you have to go to ISU!’ I fell in love with ISU right from the start, and that’s how I knew it was meant to be.”
When she got to Illinois State, Testin wasted no time getting involved on campus. “I was very involved in high school and wanted to continue that involvement at ISU. I liked exploring all the different things to find my passions.”
During her freshman year, she decided to run for president of the Student Education Association (SEA).
“I joined SEA my first year, and after only three months decided that I wanted to run for president,” Testin said. “I knew it was going to be a year of being president-elect, followed by a year of being president. I’m really glad I took that leap, I wasn’t planning on doing that but I just jumped right in and I’m glad that I did.”
That was Testin’s first step into leadership in college, but it wouldn’t be her last. In addition to her current role as president in SEA, she is also president of the Illinois Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Education Association. Testin has also worked for Metcalf lab school, and has held several leadership roles in the Honors Program, all the while owning her own cake decorating business called “Strictly Sugar”.
Testin also found a new home living on one of the Honors Themed Living-Learning Community floors in Manchester hall. “Once I found the Honors floor and got involved I never wanted to leave,” said Testin. “I met my best friends on the floor. People understand what you’re going through as a student and some of the unique challenges high achieving students can face.”
Testin has been very involved in the Honors Program, serving as a community assistant, as well as a trip leader for the Honors Alternative Spring Break trip in spring 2019, and she’s using those experiences to prepare for her future role as an educator. “The Honors Program has given me so many opportunities to grow as a leader, a student and a person overall. Being a Community Assistant, I learned a lot about time management. Being able to handle a lot of things at once, to work on a team with other people, how to work collaboratively, sticking to a budget – all of these things I’m going to have to know as a teacher.”
Building relationships is very important to Testin because she remembers the impact her teachers had on her during her formative years. She knows the value of making connections, and said of her own experiences, “When you think back to the classes you took in grade school and high school, you don’t necessarily remember the content, but you probably remember how the teachers made you feel.”
Testin knows first-hand how powerful those feelings can be.
“The FCS department is very special, more like a tight-knit family than a department. Everyone there is really invested in making our time at ISU worthwhile.”
Testin has made a very special connection with one particular person who has had a large impact on her college career. “The most meaningful college experience I’ve had is the relationship I have been able to build with my scholarship donor and mentor Charlotte Talkington,” said Testin. “Charlotte was a high school FCS teacher and then a professor at ISU for 25 years and the program coordinator for FCSTE. I received her Recruitment and Retention Scholarship going into my freshman year at ISU and in these three short years we have been together, I have learned so much from her. I aspire to be Charlotte when I’m older because she is so involved and is actively making a difference in students’ lives and around Bloomington-Normal. I don’t know how I’m ever going to repay her.”
Life at ISU has been pretty sweet for Abbey Testin. As she prepares for her final semester of college and looks toward the future with her own classroom in mind, she feels confident about having all the ingredients she needs to find success.