An auto accident caused Holli Kaiser to rethink and refocus her life. Now she’s on her way toward a teaching career.
When Holli Kaiser was attending Medford High School a decade ago, no one — least of all her — would have envisioned her as a teacher. A halfhearted student, bored and restless, she dropped out and took a job at G.I. Joe’s. College was not on her radar.
But in the crumpled metal of a devastating car crash that severed her spinal cord, her life took a paradoxical turn. Her new physical limitations forced her to refocus her life. So began a 10-year intellectual quest that has earned her top academic honors and taken her — in another twist of irony — back to the high school environment she once rejected. This time, she’ll be at the front of the classroom.
Kaiser found in OSU’s Education Double Degree Program the optimal blend of subject-area specialization with a teaching focus. Launched in 2003, the program was designed to attract new talent to the teaching ranks and fill looming workforce gaps, especially in math, science and technology. Kaiser embodies the program’s goal: to draw a broader range of talented candidates into the teaching pool.
“The real problem is that most teacher preparation models create self-imposed structural limitations on who can access the field,” says Sam Stern, dean of the College of Education. “This innovative program takes advantage of the existing talent, knowledge and interests of our current undergraduate students and targets them to the hardest-to-fill teaching jobs where we need them the most.”
Combining teaching with her subject-area major, family and consumer sciences, Kaiser sees her degrees as a chance to give students what was missing in her own high school experience: real-life applications. She thinks she might have stayed in high school if the curriculum had answered that universal question, “Why do I need to know this stuff?” Family and consumer sciences, she says, is all about the real-world skills and understandings that underpin a healthy, satisfying, successful life.
“This discipline runs the gamut, from pre-birth all the way through aging,” says Kaiser, who was the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences student of the year for Oregon in 2005. “As a teacher, I want to make the connection of relevance for my students.”