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Graduating college during a global pandemic is incredibly daunting, but Karissa Crisenbery ‘20 took it in stride. With a degree in Elementary Education and a concentration in Special Education, Crisenbery was able to step into a career quickly after finishing college.
With help from Dr. Melissa Jessup, Professor of Special Education, Crisenbery was connected to Shepherd’s College where she currently works as an instructor. Shepherd’s College is a three-year, post-secondary institution that works to educate and train students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In this training, students are equipped to help develop skills in all areas of life while instilling an awareness of God’s plan for their lives.
“Karissa had a desire to work in an environment that would allow her to openly share her faith and integrate it with her teaching,” said Dr. Jessup. “She has goals of continuing her education, and her position at Shepherd's College will be an excellent foundation for her pursuit of those goals.”
Crisenbery’s role as an instructor comes with both challenges and encouragement, but Crisenbery sees God through it all. An education from Taylor cultivated her skills and faith, enabling her pursue the career path before her.
Shepherd’s College is located in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Believing that all people have the potential to reach a level of independence that is appropriate for their level of ability, this institution does not define ability by a person’s disability, but think of it as something that is discovered and developed through the teaching, re-enforcing, reviewing and testing of the education process.
“Shepherd's College is a natural fit for our education majors with a concentration in special education because it continues the integration of faith and learning in an educational institution,” said Dr. Jessup. “[It] provides a faith-based instructional setting in which our education majors with a concentration in special education can apply and implement the instructional strategies learned at TU.”
Crisenbery teaches Computer Skills, Applied Technology, and Trained for Life to all three years of students. “These specific classes help students learn skills that they will take with them when they graduate: these include writing professional emails, completing a resume, job searching, preparing for life after college, and much more,” said Crisenbery.
Crisenbery spends hours preparing, teaching and grading for her classes. Each day looks different for her, but each step is ultimately driven by the mission to positively impact her students and glorify God through her teaching.
Seeing students reach an “aha” moment is one of her favorite parts of the job. Whether in the classroom or while developing habits or skills, when an idea or concept clicks for them, it is exciting and rewarding. It's in these moments that she sees the Lord at work.
“You will never look into the eyes of a student that God doesn’t love.”
Crisenbery heard this statement from a teacher early in her career and it has stuck with her ever since. She carries her faith through all the parts of her day—both good and bad. Often her experiences remind her of God’s love for us.
“I have seen Him working in those moments I feel exhausted, and the Lord gives me just the right amount of energy I need to get through the day,” Crisenbery said. “And I have seen Him through the students—the ways they are continually growing and becoming confident in who God created them to be, the new skills they are learning and applying to everyday life and seeing their excitement about life both now and after they graduate from Shepherd’s. The Lord is continually at work, and it is evident when I open my eyes and just look around.”
Taylor’s Education Department offers a variety of majors and concentrations. In the program, students are prepared for the ins and outs of teaching by receiving tangible, in-classroom experience starting freshman year.
Crisenbery’s favorite class was Perspectives in Diversity, a class that pushes students to think beyond their own perspective or experience. She and her classmates visited the Chicago Public School system for this class. From this experience, Crisenbery was able to understand teaching as a way of walking alongside students and helping them to best achieve their goals.
Not only does the Education Department incorporate classes important to the foundational elements of teaching, but it also places students in classroom settings. From the start of their major curriculum, Taylor education students learn how to teach a variety of students from a variety of backgrounds. They also get to interact with and learn directly from current teachers.
“Being able to work with a great number of teachers and learning from them was a great blessing,” said Crisenbery. “It was an opportunity to see a variety of teaching styles, learn my strengths and weaknesses, and put what I learned in my classes all into practice.”
If you are interested in exploring Taylor’s education program or becoming an education major, schedule a visit with Admissions to see our classrooms in action.
Photos are courtesy of Karissa Crisenbery and Shepherd's College.