Student Spotlight: Alyssa Kalb
Major: Associate in Arts
Alyssa Kalb loved to play school as a little girl, and with three younger siblings, she was the teacher.
“Our playroom was fitted with old school desks and a blackboard, and I would stock my file cabinet with copied sheets from my school workbooks for my ‘students,’” she said. “I had so much fun being the teacher, assigning homework, leading daily lessons and teaching my siblings that it began to stir my dreams that I would have my own classroom one day.
“Teaching delivers a sense of importance and responsibility, for in our classroom we hold, nurture and teach the future of America. I think about the students that will come into my classroom and leave with all that I could empower them with, to become doctors, lawyers, presidents, teachers, mechanics. Many of my high school teachers contributed to my aspirations of becoming a teacher one day. However, it wasn’t always about the curriculum. Many of them offered me guidance, support and friendship in times of need and I couldn’t think of a better way to repay them than to do for other students what they did for me.”
While in high school, Kalb played softball, volleyball and was an athletic trainer. She was nominated every sport season for Academic All Conference and was on the honor roll. In the fall of 2005, she attended the University of Iowa and was part of the Air Force ROTC program. However, due to a family emergency, she needed to move back home and help take care of her younger siblings.
But Kalb never lost the desire to create a better future for herself. Neither of her parents had attended college, and it was important for her to be a good role model for her three younger siblings. She enrolled at College of DuPage and immediately became a huge advocate for COD as the choice for anyone pursuing a secondary education.
“School was an escape for me, a place to foster my dreams and prove to myself that beyond all odds, adversity and with no support from my family, that I could accomplish something,” she said. “I experienced a life obstacle during my pursuit of an associate’s degree, which caused me to stumble, lose my footing and question whether this was all worth the struggle. After regaining my inner strength, I knew without a doubt that an education was worth every bump in life’s journey. For someone like me, an education is the ticket to a better future, a better life and becoming a better person.”
When she earned her Associate in Arts degree, Kalb graduated with high honors and was one of the Outstanding Graduate finalists. She transferred to DePaul University, where she majored in Special Education and graduated summa cum laude and the recipient of the Jerry and Katherine Christensen Scholarship. She founded the DePaul Future Teachers organization and was the president on its executive board. She also was president of Iota Psi, DePaul’s chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the academic honor society for education majors.
Kalb recently joined the executive board for Illinois Miss Amazing, which is an empowerment campaign supporting and fostering the functional, communication and social skills of women and girls with disabilities while focusing on what they can do. The organization hosts a beauty pageant where participants, who are excluded from mainstream pageantry, can showcase their talents and be in the spotlight.
Having student taught in the transition program at New Trier High School, Kalb is currently teaching at Amundsen High School in the Chicago Public School System in the Cluster Program, which is a classroom of moderate to severe diverse learners. She also is coaching freshman volleyball.
“My philosophy is that teaching and psychology go hand in hand, and many of the disenfranchised students in the public school system need an educator who is not only passionate about what he or she does but who also wants to truly reach out and help as many students as possible realize their potential,” she said. “I want to help students who have come from a similar or worse background than I have, or students with disabilities, ignite a passion for their education and their future.”
Kalb is inspired by her own teachers at College of DuPage.
“College of DuPage offered me a chance to learn in a smaller teacher-to-student ratio classroom and to learn under some brilliant professors,” she said. “I wasn’t just a number at College of DuPage, and that helped me from feeling overwhelmed like I did when I attended the University of Iowa. I also felt a sense of community, and I like passing along what I’ve discovered at COD to younger students.
“When I was a senior in high school, I thought the best idea would be going away to school, getting out of the house and having that ‘college experience.’ I didn’t have anyone telling me that perhaps starting off at a community college would be in my best interest. So take it from me, someone who went to a Big Ten university and quickly got swallowed up and wasted a lot of money. Apply to College of DuPage, get your general education courses out of the way, take a few classes that interest you outside of the gen eds, and take your time to figure out what you want to do, what interests you and where you see yourself at the end of your journey.
“To any and all students, always believe in your passions, always believe in your dreams and, most importantly, always believe in yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ We are the future, let’s have a desire for more, set our sights higher and fuel a curiosity to break barriers and change the world.”
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