Mackenzie Vitosh has always loved working with kids. However, she wasn’t sure how that would come into her life. For the longest time, she wanted to be a lawyer.
“My parents said I was good at arguing,” Mackenzie said.
She also loved advocating for people.
“It turns out that in the special education world, advocating for kids is one of the biggest things you must do,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie enrolled at College of Saint Mary in August 2020 after visiting the previous spring as part of her volleyball recruiting process. She was impressed by the close-knit community CSM offered, which was the perfect fit.
“I was looking for a smaller college. I looked at UNO and UNL, and they were big. I didn’t want to be one of 300 in a class. I wanted it to be like my high school experience,” said Mackenzie, who grew up in Odell, NE, a town of about 300 people.
Mackenzie credits her teachers from kindergarten through high school with encouraging her, which is one reason she decided to pursue an education degree.
“They were all so supportive and helped me push through my goals to reach my dreams and do what I want in life,” she said.
Mackenzie has also found that support in her professors at CSM.
“I love that CSM employs past and present teachers,” she said. “They have real-world experience and stories to tell about their time in the classroom, which gives you an idea of what you’re going to see.
“It opens our eyes to the fact that not everything you’re going to see will be coming from the textbook information,” Mackenzie added.
CSM’s education program offers its students unique practicum experiences a full year before most other programs in the area. Mackenzie has spent time in classrooms in the Westside and Millard districts.
In addition, CSM has a partnership with Girls, Inc. called Project SMART, which allows students to teach and mentor elementary girls on campus.
“It’s a great real-world experience for being a teacher,” Mackenzie said.
When she’s not in the classroom, Mackenzie works at a daycare for special needs children. That experience has given her a better understanding of those children she hopes to help after graduation.
“All they need is somebody to interact with them and somebody to listen and understand what they are going through,” she said. “They need somebody to support them and give them the tools they need to level the playing field with all the other kids.”
While at CSM, Mackenzie was also a member of the Flames volleyball team. In high school, she played varsity as a freshman and worked her way up to captain as a senior. In college, she was surrounded by many good players and had to work hard to get playing time.
“I learned that you are an impactful player even if you’re not on the court. Attitude and effort control everything, so you have to work hard and push your teammates,” she said. “I really love volleyball here at CSM. I know that Coach Pruett is building a great program. I’m excited to see what they do in the next couple of years after I graduate.”
Mackenzie, who currently coaches a club team at Nebraska Elite, hopes to coach a high school program in addition to her role as a teacher.
“I want to positively impact the next level of volleyball players,” she said. “If I can help players like my coaches helped me, that would be very rewarding.”
Mackenzie will student teach this fall before graduating in December. She hopes to stay in the Omaha metro area and teach at an area elementary school.