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16-year-old jump-starts college career

by LACY MITCHELL The Batesville Daily Guard on June 25, 2013 10:50 AM

BATESVILLE, Ark. — Makayla Candler knew in elementary school she wanted to be a psychologist who works with children. She also knew it would require about 14 years of college to get there.

“I knew if I wanted to go to school that long I had better get started,” she saidwith a laugh.

At 16 years old, Candler is making good on her plans even if her direction has changed and her sights are now set on being a math teacher.

The former Cave City student recently graduated high school through Alpha Omega Academy, a Christian-based fully accredited home-school program, and will begin her first year of college at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville this fall to complete her basics.

Candler, of Pfeiffer, began the Alpha Omega online program her 11th-grade year in which she also took senior level classes. In 10th grade she “doubled up” on math courses, a subject she loves.

“Math. I love math,” she said. “Math comes easy to me.”

It’s a degree she believes can take her anywhere and it’s a subject she says challenges her, “stretching her brain to the limit.”

But it was fifth-grade teacher Lee Baird who she says opened her eyes to how much she loves the subject even though she was the student who worked out long division math problems on the board — for fun — when most students would sit and chat when they had to stay in class.

“I knew I liked it (math), but I didn’t know how much I enjoyed it,” she said smiling, when speaking of Baird’s class. “He was such an awesome teacher.”

Candler said Baird would have “math races” on the board to see who could finish first. “He set up games to learn math and taught it in ways that were enjoyable. He also came up with sayings and unique ways for me to remember different formulas. I think that’s what really helped me learn.”

Baird, who retired after 39 years in education a year ago in May, having taught second through 12th grades throughout his career, said Candler’s parents, Sanford and Marietta Candler, are more deserving of any credit he might be given.

“She was such a wonderful student. She was every teacher’s dream,” he said, noting how exciting it is for a teacher to “teach a child that’s ready (and willing) to learn.”

Candler never minded being the one classmates came to when needing help with their math. It’s her hope that she can teach in a way so that anyone can understand math the way she does, and even come to enjoy it.

She hasn’t forgotten about psychology, however. It’s a class that will be part of her 15-hour, full-time course load this fall and remains an area she may want to pursue if she finds she likes it. The teen also hopes to continue work at her first job, as a waitress at Colton’s Steak House, once school starts.

While math may be a first love, reading and writing aren’t far behind. Candler, who admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, would love to be an author, creating her own stories and plots as a fiction writer.

As for FDR and her admiration for the 32nd president, “He pushed us through the Great Depression, World War II, and he rented a resort in Georgia trying to cure his and others’ polio,” she said. This eventually led him to establish the March of Dimes and his being on the dime. “I just really liked his bravery and courage,” Candler said.

Some have told her she’s lucky to be so good in math when it’s often thought of as a subject men are better at, but she admits science is her “weak point” despite having made A’s in the course.

“But, I struggle at it,” she said with a laugh, noting it’s what she told her friends when they’d tease her about her “low grade.”

Despite not getting the chance to go to prom or be valedictorian, Candler had her graduation day complete with all the pomp and circumstance such events call for — right at home.

The Alpha Omega Class of 2013 ceremony included a live broadcast online in which graduates’ photos were displayed, names were read aloud and students’ favorite quotes were shown.

Candler, who wore a cap and gown that was mailed to her from the school based in Iowa and had senior pictures taken, invited family members and friends to the event where they were given programs, enjoyed refreshments and posed for many photos in front of a backdrop.

“It made the event really exciting,” she said.

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