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Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College professor and department chair and practicing attorney, follows her passion for helping others.
Department Chair and Professor Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College, is passionate about education and helping others to succeed. Not only does she inspire her students to succeed, they have inspired her to succeed as well. They were the driving force behind her decision to finally make her dream of becoming a lawyer a reality. So now in addition to teaching, she also takes the time to practice law.
While she aims to earn a living through trusts and estate law, she combines her law degree with her passion for education by doing pro bono work. She advocates on behalf of children with special needs to ensure that they are getting the services to which they are entitled. Through Health & Disability Advocates she provides free legal services for parents and guardians to help them fight for the rights and education of their children.
With an unwavering dedication to teaching, Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College professor, has transitioned from teaching high school to teaching college. She teaches Introduction to Paralegal Studies, and she has the opportunity to work with all incoming students in the program. She helps them to build a strong foundation right from the start, where they develop real-life skills by engaging in hands-on learning. Nothing brightens her day more than when she sees information finally click for a student. Ms. Waters makes sure that all students – college or special needs – are prepared for the future and the world that awaits them. She wants to inspire them to do great things.
Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, did not always work in law. It was her commitment to education that led her there. She always knew that her calling was in teaching, and it was something in which she showed immense talent. The field of special education caught her interest, and she became motivated to help these students succeed. Throughout the years, her own education reflected her strong interests and talents and led her to become even more of a leader in the field. Her drive and ambition kept her reaching for greater heights.
A Strong Background in Education
Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, began her educational pursuits at Loyola University of Chicago, where she majored in history and communication. Her focus and determination helped her to earn her bachelor’s degree and graduate magna cum laude. During her time there she was also invited to become a member of the International History Honors Society and serve as an undergraduate representative to the Loyola History department.
Shortly after graduating, she went on to complete her first of three master’s degrees. She once again attended Loyola University of Chicago, but this time in pursuit of her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. This prepared her for the rewarding career of teaching. She gained a deeper knowledge of the theories and practices that surround learning and teaching. Once again her hard work paid off, and she graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average with high honors.
Following her growing interest in special education, Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, enrolled at Dominican University. Here she obtained her Master of Science in Special Education, further preparing her to meet the unique needs of these students. The scope of special education is vast, and there are many intricacies that go along with providing a high-quality education. Teachers must learn about acceptable accommodations and learn how to design lessons and projects to meet each student’s needs. Ms. Waters tackled every challenge set before her and earned another 4.0 grade point average with high honors.
Several years later she returned to Dominican University to earn her Master of Arts in Educational Administration, providing her with an even more in-depth understanding of the educational system and processes. She would later use all of the knowledge and experience she had gained in combination with her law degree to better serve students in need.
Gaining Inspiration from her Students
For more than a decade, Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College professor, taught high school history with an emphasis on special education. Her students learned all about the past and its impact on the future. One of the courses that she taught was constitutional law. While she motivated and challenged her students to higher level thinking, they did the same for her. They would often come up with off-the-wall questions to which she did not have answers. She frequently talked about her dream of one day going to law school, and finally her students called her out on it. They dared her to turn her dream into a reality and go to law school.
Coincidentally the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) was given on the same day as the ACT college readiness test. And as her students were taking their exams, she was as well. She scored very high and received offers for attendance from several law schools. Since she was still teaching and had a family as well, she chose to attend John Marshall Law School in Chicago. They had a part-time evening program and awarded her with a scholarship. This would allow her to fit in her school work along with her teaching career. In 2007 she graduated in the top quarter of her class with her Juris Doctor in Law.
Fighting for Others
Upon graduating with her law degree, Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, began working with the Illinois Appellate Court. Here she put her skills to use and got hands-on experience in the field. But after a year and a half she decided to pursue a different path. While she loved working as a lawyer, her true passion was still in education. She found that she could get the best of both worlds by combining her work.
As both the department chair and a professor, Merilee Waters had the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of future paralegals. She teaches the Introduction to Paralegal Studies class and can truly relate to what students are going through, having just been a law student herself. She goes above and beyond to ensure that they receive a high-quality education that will benefit them in their future career.
Understanding the importance of real-world application, she assigns work that mirrors what students will encounter in a real law firm. Hands-on experience prepares them for the challenges they will face and allows them to apply what they have learned. Not only does she help them to develop a strong foundational knowledge of law, she also makes sure that they know how to effectively apply it to their work. She wants them to be able to benefit their employer from day one and show they have the talents and abilities to get the job done.
Focusing more on her legal practice, Merilee Waters, Oakton attorney, works pro bono as an advocate for children with special needs. Unfortunately many parents are unaware of their rights and their children’s rights. They may not realize that their child can qualify for special medical and educational accommodations at school. These accommodations can provide them with better access to their education and a brighter future. Therefore, she helps parents to stay informed and fight for their rights. Since there are many people who cannot afford the costs associated with hiring an attorney, by providing her services free of charge, she gives a greater number of people access to valuable services.
Outside of Work
When she is not busy teaching or practicing law, Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, enjoys spending quality time with her family. She and her husband have two children and two dogs. Balancing her career along with her family keeps her on her toes. Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College professor and attorney, is committed to serving others and helping them to succeed.
Merilee Waters, Oakton professional, plans to continue her work in both education and law. Teaching paralegal students allows her to pass on her knowledge and experience to future generations of professionals. She draws from not only her time spent in law school and working in the courts, but also from her years of teaching high school. Her solid background and her three master’s degrees help her to create a rigorous and engaging curriculum and present it in a way that makes sense. As much as possible she gives students real-world examples and assignments and provides them with hands-on learning opportunities. A large part of mastering material is knowing how to apply it.
She will also continue her work with trusts and estate law, providing high quality services for her clients. In addition, she remains passionate about her pro bono work, advocating for children with special needs. There is a high demand for this type of service in the Chicago area, and she is proud to be able to meet this need and support parents and their children. All students should have the opportunity to access their education and make the most of out their future. She will continue to educate and support parents regarding their rights and available accommodations.
Merilee Waters, Oakton Community College professor and chair and practicing attorney, has dedicated her life to serving others. She is passionate about education, teaching, and law, and her successful career reflects this. In the future she plans to continue working toward her dreams and ambitions and supporting students in their quest for knowledge.
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