Alumni and Friends

Alumni Feature: Mackenzie Ralph - nurturing minds, inspiring success

Mackenzie (Jones) Ralph always knew she wanted to be a teacher, so she chose to major in education when she came to Ohio University Chillicothe. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Middle Childhood Education with a focus on mathematics and English language arts in 2019 and has been teaching language arts to seventh-graders at Huntington Middle School since then. 

Principal Matt Murphy said Ralph is a valuable team member at Huntington. 

“She is a true and genuine role model to our students, staff and community,” he said. “The impact Mackenzie has made on our school community ranges from high achieving student success to positively changing our school climate."

Associate Professor of Middle Childhood Education Karen Corcoran said Ralph engages her students and meets them where they are, providing the support and challenge they need in the classroom. 

“Mackenzie is an impactful teacher, never forgetting her journey through school and the teachers who supported her,” noted Corcoran.

Staying local for college was a deliberate decision for Ralph. 

"I chose Ohio University Chillicothe because I needed to stay close to home and wanted a good education,” she said. “Ohio University Chillicothe offered me both of those things." 

Having lost her mother to cancer two days after her high school graduation, and her father before that, Ralph came to college with more responsibilities than the average student. After her mother’s death, Ralph had siblings to care for and a seven-acre farm to manage. She adopted her brother, who was a high school freshman at the time.

“Taking all that on was difficult,” Ralph said. “I went from just being a high schooler to having all these bills to pay. I didn’t even know how to do it. Luckily, I had family that helped me through but at the end of the day … I was the one at home taking care of it all.”

Ralph’s mother had toured OHIO Chillicothe with her and supported her college choice so despite her uncertainty about starting college so soon after losing her mother, she stuck with her plan, rising above the challenges she faced to earn her degree and prepare for a teaching career. 

According to Ralph, Ohio University Chillicothe supported her and prepared her for her teaching career in many ways.

"I would not be where I am today if not for the education that Ohio University provided me,” she said. “I still refer back to some of my notes, projects and books.” 

The bonds she formed during her education stayed intact, with Ralph keeping in touch with former classmates and some professors. She said OHIO Chillicothe faculty members Karen Corcoran and Lorna Buskirk both taught her lessons that have helped her tremendously in her life and career, in addition to offering the support and flexibility she needed to persevere and succeed.

"When I think back to the challenges I faced, they were the two people I knew were always there to help,” Ralph said. “The biggest challenge that I had to overcome was balancing my school responsibilities with my family responsibilities. I always had a lot going on, and I struggled to keep up with everything, but my professors were always great at helping me when I was struggling. I made it through my education with help from my classmates, teachers and a determination to succeed.”

Ralph returned to her alma mater recently to share advice with at a teacher symposium hosted by Kappa Delta Pi, a new honor society for education students at OHIO Chillicothe. Though Ralph loves her work as a teacher, she acknowledges the challenges she faces in the role, especially when dealing with behavioral issues from students she knows are capable of success. She said the most rewarding moments come when she witnesses her students succeed in the classroom and beyond.  She also acknowledged that college can be challenging and encouraged students to have fun along the way.

“Don’t give up,” Ralph said. “You can do it! Be there for the kids.”

Her advice for students preparing to graduate is grounded in her own experiences.

“Be open to opportunities that come your way,” Ralph said. “Trust your instincts. You’ve made it this far, and I know you have the power to do whatever you put your mind to. Finally, prioritize your self-care. Starting a new job and career can be overwhelming and stressful. Take care of yourself to be the best that you can be.”

December 11, 2023
Staff reports