Krissa Hetletvedt ’14
Third grade teacher, Catlin Arts Magnet School, Omaha, Nebraska

Serving students

Krissa’s classroom passion for students and their learning earned her recognition as Rookie of the Year from the Omaha Education Association in April 2015. Her colleagues described her in their nominations as “extraordinary” and “amazing.” They wrote about her “unrivaled enthusiasm” and “unwavering commitment.” The school’s instructional facilitator said she “treats each child as if he or she is the only one in the class.” Krissa credits Northwestern’s teacher-as-servant philosophy with showing her how to put students first.

How well did Northwestern prepare you for your career?

You always hear horror stories from first-year teachers who were beyond stressed, leaving school in tears, or second-guessing their decision to teach. I’ve never felt that way, and I think it’s due to the preparation and training I received at Northwestern. Through classes and practicum experiences while at Northwestern, I got a good idea of what the schools were like in the area surrounding Orange City. Then I chose to student-teach in an urban setting through the Chicago Semester. That was definitely challenging, but I feel like student-teaching in Chicago was great preparation for getting a teaching job in Omaha.

How does NWC’s teacher-as-servant philosophy look in your classroom?

I’m here to serve my students—whether that’s using a different teaching approach for students who are struggling or just being a caring and dependable adult in their lives. I’m here for them. They’re my motivation. 

How did it feel to receive the Rookie of the Year honor?

After receiving the honor, I was able to read the nomination letters my colleagues wrote. I’m blessed to work with such supportive people, and I still have so much to learn about teaching by observing them and learning from their constructive criticism. Some of the most meaningful feedback I get is from my students. Occasionally I ask them to write me a friendly letter about the things they enjoy in class and what suggestions they have for me as a teacher. Their feedback is always very honest and often entertaining.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about teaching?

Progress—and with progress, we celebrate. Day to day, I often feel like I’m crunched for time: so many standards to hit and pacing guides to follow. Nonetheless, I’ve found it’s important to take time to celebrate accomplishments. My students clap, cheer and congratulate each other for a job well done. I even have one student who cries during these celebrations because he’s so happy for his classmates.

What are some future goals for your career?

Right now I’m enjoying teaching without the stress of also going to school myself, but I plan to get my master’s degree someday—maybe in special education or school counseling.