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Basketball player has a heart for special education
By Jeff Febus
Emily Beard
Emily Beard

Emily Beard can remember when she first became interested in a career in special education. “I babysat a boy with down syndrome as a high school student, and it was a very rewarding experience,” said Beard. “I found that I had a lot more patience for children with special needs.”

Beard then spent a summer working with autistic children—another rewarding experience. She then knew she wanted to seek a career in special education.

That desire led Beard to Calvin. “I wanted a school that had a good special education program with an emphasis in mental impairment,” said Beard. “I looked at a number of schools, and Calvin had what I was looking for. The fact that it was a Christian school was also a big factor.”

Beard was also looking for a place to further her athletic career. “I was looking to play volleyball and basketball,” she said. “I knew I would have the opportunity to do both at Calvin.”

After spending a year at Calvin on both teams, Beard decided to focus strictly on basketball. As a sophomore, the 6’0” forward stepped into a starting role and maintained that spot for three years.

A senior this year, she was named to the All-MIAA second team after averaging 9.3 points per game and finishing among the league leaders in rebounds and blocked shots. Beard finished her collegiate career with 547 rebounds, tied for fourth on the Calvin career-rebound list.

“When I was in high school, I was able to get rebounds simply because I was taller than most of the players,” said Beard, who prepped at Southfield (Mich.) Christian High School. “At the collegiate level, I found that I had to work a lot harder to get rebounds and couldn’t just rely on my height.

“I found out that rebounding really comes down to effort and desire,” she continued. “You may have a game where your shots aren’t falling, but rebounding is always something you can control through your effort and desire.”

With her playing career behind her, Beard will turn her attention to her academic pursuits. She is currently student teaching at the Lincoln Development Center working with elementary-age children with special needs. In the fall, Beard will complete her student teaching at Alexander Elementary School.

“I really feel that God is calling me into a special education career,” said Beard. “I wake up every day with a sense of excitement because of the children I work with.”