Randa Garlin chosen as Academic All-Star
Randa Garlin grew up watching her stepmother, who she has always called her “bonus mom,” teach students. That early exposure to teaching inspired Garlin to want to be a part of helping others learn.
“When I was young, I would sit in class with her and watch her teach or grade papers. When you teach someone how to do something, you can see the light bulb come on when they understand what you are teaching. I think it’s amazing to help others learn something,” Garlin said.
Garlin, a Batesville native, graduated in 2007 and began taking courses at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. She took a break from school to start her family and returned in the fall of 2015 “on a whim” as a mother of three.
Returning to college didn’t come without its challenges. The day she was supposed to meet with the vice chancellor of finance and administration, Garlin was in a car accident. The following spring semester, Garlin found a lump in her breast. With a family history of breast cancer, she opted to have genetic testing done to determine her risk of developing the disease.
“My grandmother and cousin both died young from breast cancer. The tests showed I had a 95% probability of developing cancer by the age of 35, so I opted to have a double mastectomy done,” she said.
Garlin had the surgery during the summer while taking three classes. “I drove to Little Rock once a week every week. I had a test the day I had reconstructive surgery, and I still managed to make an A,” Garlin said. “I cried when I got the notice that I had been selected as the Academic All-Star. Here I am almost 30 and a mama of four now. It just shows that all my hard work has paid off. It’s never too late to go back to school. I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity. After everything that I’ve been through, I could have given up and never had this chance. Don’t give up.”
Garlin graduated with honors from UACCB this May with an associate’s degree in elementary education. She is currently working toward an associate degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with the ultimate goal of teaching science at the high school or college level.
“I really thought I would teach math until I took my first science class with Mrs. Meinzer. I loved it. You get to do hands-on activities with the students, and I think that’s where I want to be,” she said.
Garlin is a peer tutor in math and science for the TRIO/Student Support Services program at UACCB. Mickey Freeze, TRIO advisor/student activities coordinator, encouraged her to join the Student Government Association where she has served as secretary. Garlin gave credit to her support system both on and off campus who helped her achieve success.
“My mother has watched my kids for me, and my sister helped me see the bigger picture when it got stressful and hard. Dr. [Brian] Shonk and Mr. [Gayle] Cooper bent over backwards to help me when I returned to school, and Mrs. [Glenda] Bell has listened to me talk about life and my struggles. She’s not just an advisor, she’s a counselor. I can’t thank them enough. Without them, I do not think I would have been so successful in school or won this award,” she said.
Garlin and her husband, Brandon, have been married four years. They have four children: Kaden, Randon, Kendall, and Brinley.