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Pictured is Kristen Misutka. Photo by Nathaniel Holzer.

"The diverse, relevant degree programs that have been developed by the education faculty set Point Park apart from other universities. At each level –  undergraduate, graduate and doctoral – the programs are student-focused, research-based and prioritize career-readiness."

Kristen Misutka, Ph.D., lecturer, School of Education

Growing up, Kristen Misutka, Ph.D., felt drawn to the education profession as she observed the passion and dedication her mother, an elementary teacher for 35 years, had for helping students succeed.

"When I entered high school, I began working with students with special needs, and working with this population of students inspired me to pursue a degree in special education," Misutka said. "Once I entered college, I had a special education professor who was so phenomenal that I realized someday I wanted to work in higher education as well."

Misutka is a new lecturer in the School of Education. She teaches a variety of courses, including special education and inclusive practices, building family partnerships, technological literacy for education for the 21st century and more. 

"Education has always been part of my life, and I can't imagine doing anything else," she said.

Previously, Dr. Misutka was an adjunct professor at Point Park. She taught high school English at Gateway School District for 10 years. She also taught special education at the middle school and high school level for seven years. 

In the Q&A below, learn about Misutka's teaching philosophy and advice for students.

Why is Point Park's School of Education distinctive from other universities?

The diverse, relevant degree programs that have been developed by the education faculty set Point Park apart from other universities. At each level – undergraduate, graduate and doctoral – the programs are student-focused, research-based and prioritize career-readiness. These programs produce teachers and educational leaders who are prepared to confidently face the challenges of the field.

Your teaching philosophy emphasizes being a “student of your students." Describe what that means and how it applies to your approach to education.

I have always believed that it is a teacher’s responsibility to take the time to learn about each student’s interests, beliefs and family. Learning about my students' lives helps me to foster meaningful relationships that are necessary to help them learn the material effectively and to create an inclusive culture in the classroom.

This practice also helps me to create a safe environment where failure is not only accepted, but it is also used to promote continuous learning and growth. Creating a safe learning environment takes determination and persistence and has been the foundation of the way I approach teaching in the classroom. It means working diligently to meet the needs of my students, setting high expectations and using consistent communication and feedback as students learn to accept their errors, reflect upon them and improve over time.

What career advice do you want to share with School of Education students?

Spend time learning about and building relationships with the students in your classrooms. This time is invaluable and will help in all areas of teaching and learning. Always be willing to learn, change and grow. When I started my career, I wish I would have known that flexibility in all areas of teaching and learning is so important. I had a plan and I always wanted to stick to it, but I have learned over the course of my career that being flexible often produces the best learning opportunities and outcomes.  

What are your hobbies or other interests?

I love to read. I am currently reading "When You Wonder, You're Learning," by Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski.  It came as a recommendation from a maker space training that I attended. The book helps teachers of today to focus on how to encourage kids to be creative and curious. I am also re-reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the hopes that my 7-year-old son will want to read it. I read it for the first time when I was in college, and I love it just as much this time.

I love baking. My two kids and I love to bake chocolate chip cookies. I try to bring cookies to each of my classes once a semester.  When I was in school, I always loved when one of my professors brought something homemade to class.  

I also like to exercise. I love the bike trails in Pittsburgh. Going on a bike ride is something that my family loves to do, and then after the bike ride, we stop at one of the many restaurants downtown. The Original Oyster House is one of our favorites.

More About: education, secondary education, School of Education, special education, faculty, early childhood education, elementary education