For Kate (Hieb) Krieger (BS ’10, MS ’17), relationships mean everything. That belief has guided her teaching, her master’s studies, and now the new courses she’s developing as an MLC continuing education adjunct instructor.
Maybe relationships are so important because Kate’s a third-culture kid. Born in Japan in 1987, where her parents were WELS missionaries, Kate didn’t feel she fully belonged to the Japanese culture, nor did she fully belong to her parents’ American culture.
“I went through this constant flipping back and forth. Playing with my Japanese friends at Japanese kindergarten and then eating American food with my family at home. Saturday night worship in English and Sunday in Japanese. High school at Luther Prep and home in Japan for Christmas and summers.
“It’s not like the two cultures combined. Third culture is its own culture. And third-culture kids value relationships over almost everything. Knowing that at any moment I could be in a different place means that when I meet people, I have a difficult time having surface conversations. I want to know them deeply.”
Kate wants to know her students deeply too. And she firmly believes that the teacher’s relationship with her students is a key to success.
She’s applied that philosophy in the five different places she’s taught since 2010: Divine Savior Academy-Doral FL, St. John-Mukwonago WI, and public schools in Las Vegas, Mankato MN, and New Ulm.
That’s a lot of change in just eight years. And just to keep it interesting, she also went on mission trips every summer, took courses at UW-Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University-Milwaukee, worked as a mentor in MLC’s New Teacher Induction program, and earned her Master of Science in Education degree (instruction emphasis) from MLC.
She also got married; helped support her husband, Joel Krieger ’04, as he earned his seminary certification at MLC; and had a baby, Reuben, who’s now 1.
Kate’s initiative and work ethic have not gone unnoticed. Dr. John Meyer, director of graduate studies and continuing education at MLC, has asked Kate to help write and teach some new courses. The first course, based on her master’s thesis, is about the impact of teacher-student relationships on student achievement.
It’s a Competency-Based Education (CBE) course, which adheres to a different model than standard college courses. CBE courses are circumscribed, focusing on a single skill or competency that teachers demonstrate to earn a microcredential, or badge.
“CBE courses really make teachers accountable for using the strategies they learn,” Kate says, “and that’s what makes professional growth impactful.”
In the future, she’d like to develop CBE courses on cooperative learning and integrating technology in instruction. “People are interested in this pilot project,” she says, “but it’s definitely a shift in paradigm.”
Shifts in paradigm, of course, are no sweat for a third-culture kid. And the future holds more shifts for Kate. She and Joel and Reuben are moving to Milwaukee this summer so Joel can continue his studies at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. As of this writing, major decisions about where to live, where Kate will teach, and who might help take care of sweet Reuben are still up in the air. “We’re waiting to see what God has planned,” Kate says.
Whatever doors God opens for her, we can be sure they will include more opportunities to learn and share that learning with others. In fact, it’s her dream to get a PhD in school improvement—to become a better teacher herself and then share that knowledge through her relationships with other WELS teachers.
“It isn’t always easy managing everything, but I keep coming back to the importance of growing as an educator myself and then challenging others to examine their practice and grow.”
She especially hopes that as teachers examine their practice, they’ll realize the importance of relationships. “I think some teachers think about those relationships as a fluffy thing. But kids need to know we truly care about them. That makes all the difference to those kids.”