Patricia Siroky Konovalov ’87 was encouraged to apply to Marygrove College by her sister Ann Pawluszka. “During those precious formative years at Marygrove she was nurtured in the ideals of competence, commitment, compassion, and social justice,” reflects Ann.
Upon graduation with a degree in history, Trisha taught three years at East Catholic High School in Detroit. In addition to teaching government, American history, economics, geography and related subjects, she developed a school choir and organized community service projects.
Trisha subsequently began teaching high school completion classes at the TRV Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan and she particularly cherishes the writings of prisoners from these courses. One inmate summed up the way many felt about Trisha, “You trusted me. You made me believe there was something I could do.” A decade after she left the correctional facility literacy program, they are still feeling her impact. “Mason County Central continues to receive records requests from Mrs. K’s former students,” wrote Robert D’Agostino, the assistant superintendent of Mason County Central Schools. “Some are sent to adult education programs. Most are records requests from universities. Now that’s impact!” he said. D’Agostino credits Trisha with building the program from scratch, providing all the counseling of prisoners and staff, and working her “magic” to acquire needed books and materials. Because of this excellent work, Trisha was named Employee of the Year in 2003 by the county school district.
During her summer break in 1990, Trisha decided to explore her heritage and arranged to stay with an aunt and uncle in Czechoslovakia. The trip led to a position teaching English as a foreign language to university students in Presov. She, in turn, was able to learn the Slovak language, explore her Slovak heritage and grow in her Byzantine Catholic spirituality and traditions. She met her husband Yuri at the university and they were married in Presov in what Trisha describes as a “fairy tale” wedding in the Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, escorted by a local, traditional band down Main Street to and from the ceremony. Trisha taught intensive classes in English for another year at IVAKS, a business and language school in Hrabusice. She returned to Michigan in 1993 and worked in several Detroit area high schools while attending graduate courses at Wayne State University. She completed her Master of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies at Central Michigan University, in 2000 and simultaneously taught at Mid-Michigan Community College there.
The following year Trisha was among a group of community college professors selected to participate in a Fulbright Program in what are now Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The group exchanged views with peers in universities and high schools.
Since returning from Eastern Europe, Trisha and her husband Yuri have settled in Big Rapids, Michigan. Trisha has worked in several grant-funded initiatives. She worked with adults in the Idlewild community in rural Lake County to help them improve their job skills. She assisted them with self-improvement and family life skills and with earning GED certificates.
Trisha has been an instructor in Marygrove’s summer distance learning program for teachers where intensive all day, one-week classes are offered in off-site locations. She recruited students and arranged venues for the classes which lead to a Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching. Among her specialties are “Multi-sensory Teaching” and “Meaningful Activities to Generate Interesting Classrooms,” known as MAGIC.
Trisha’s recent employment has been outside the education sphere. She managed the social service department for a large nursing home in Big Rapids while working on a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Ferris State University. In 2008 she became Executive Director of the Women’s Information Service, Inc., a shelter and service center for victims of domestic violence.
Recently, Trisha enrolled as a doctoral student at Ferris State, focused on community college leadership. She is an advocate of the open enrollment policy practiced at most community colleges noting that the results can be amazing. She is especially interested in developmental education. She believes, “We should educate all people—not just the easy to educate. If you give students the right tools they can fly.”