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Pictured is Kayla Holjencin, secondary education English alumna and teacher at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh. | Photo by Chris Rolinson

Meet Kayla Holjencin

Job Title: Ninth Grade English Teacher
Employer: Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice High School
Degrees Earned:
Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education English, Point Park University, 2009; Master of Education with K-12 principal certification, California University of Pennsylvania, 2012
College Activities:
Green and Gold Society, work study for Admissions Office, community facilitator for the Office of Campus Life, Children's School, IMPULSE Dance Team and presidential scholar
Kersey, Pa.
Now living in:
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Fishing, enjoying the outdoors, reading, music and attending concerts with friends

Why did you decide to study secondary education English?

Since childhood, I have always enjoyed school, sometimes even crying if I had to miss a day. However, as my high school graduation approached, I had a difficult time choosing a college major. I was torn between dance and secondary education English. I was deeply moved and inspired by my high school English teacher, Mrs. Gerber, who held high expectations for her students and not only educated them but entertained them. She truly cared about her students' lives both inside and outside the classroom. After a powerful conversation with my parents, it was clear to me that becoming a teacher was my true calling. I chose to study secondary education English so that I could be a positive role model for teens and share with my students my passion for discovering literature, just as Mrs. Gerber did with her students.

What were the main reasons you chose Point Park?

Growing up in a rural town in Pennsylvania, I wanted to find an urban campus that offered access to successful professionals from the education field. When I visited Point Park for an open house, I fell in love with it because it is in the center of the city. My parents said, "We can see you here."

Later, I received an invitation to visit the campus a second time to get a closer look at the dynamic professionals and variety of opportunities Point Park offers. During the entire three-hour ride back to my hometown I was imagining my life on campus at Point Park. When I received an envelope in the mail with Point Park's letterhead on it, my emotions were overwhelming. I was accepted as a presidential scholar and on my way to my dream of becoming a teacher.

How did you land your position at Taylor Allderdice?

I had 18 job interviews all over the state during the summer after graduation but my Point Park professors kept in contact with me and were always there for encouragement. Toward the end of the summer, I received a call from Pittsburgh Public Schools to interview at Taylor Allderdice High School. I was ecstatic. I student taught there and had the most fulfilling experience. As I entered the principal's office for the interview, I was welcomed by smiling faces and thought to myself, "Okay, Kayla, you can do this."

After the interview and before I began the drive back home, I received a phone call from the human resources department offering me the position. I eagerly accepted and cried tears of joy because I knew I had been given a wonderful opportunity.

What is one of your favorite memories as an education student at Point Park?

When I was student teaching at Allderdice, I had a particularly challenging student. He refused to do any work, never engaged himself in class and didn't show any concern about his grade. I tried my best to help this student. I failed many times. However, one day this student came to my desk before class started and said, "Miss H., here is my homework." I simply said, "Thank you," but knew that this moment was monumental. I realized that even though I had tried and failed, that student recognized my efforts and realized I care about my students. He taught me to never give up on any student.

With the education field's changing landscape, what advice do you have for our current students?

First, stay determined. The education field is constantly changing with regard to new strategies, technology and differentiation. It is at times easy to get lost in new ideas and forget the true meaning of what it means to be a teacher. Second, get to know your students, not just academically, but personally. Students need to know that you are a person as well and not just their teacher. By opening up yourself to your students, you build an important student-teacher rapport that only grows stronger as students learn.

Third, stay positive. Know that teaching is a complex career and it will not always be easy. You will have challenges but when you overcome hurdles, that's when you grow as an educator. Lastly, be professional. It is important to maintain high levels of integrity and professionalism. This means the way that you dress, decisions you make and the things you say are important, especially to your students.


More About: secondary education, education, success story, alumni, scholarships, English