For Alumna Rachel Hienz, an Unconventional Path Led Back to Point Park Student Profile
Meet Rachel Hienz '90 '21
- Job Title & Employer
- Full-Time Instructor, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union #5 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center
- Journalism, Adult Learning and Training-M.A.
- Beaver Falls, Pa.; Blackhawk High School
- Now Living In
- Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Learning, traveling with my husband, Marty, and sampling craft brews
"What’s amazing is how much Rachel has grown since going to Point Park, as an instructor, a person and recruiter. She is our shining star when we need somebody to recruit somebody. She is the perfect person for that. She is very energetic."
"I was a nontraditional student teaching at a vocational school, but all of the faculty welcomed me with open arms, especially professors Vincenne Revilla Beltrán and Barbara Frey. Instead of trying to fit me into the program, they worked around what my needs were. They were gifted at determining my needs when I didn’t know what I didn’t know. With Point Park's faculty, you can tell it’s not a job. It’s their calling."
Rachel Hienz's unusual trajectory from journalism and communication major to skilled electrician started at Point Park in 1986.
"Journalism was really fun, and I loved it, but in order to get a good job at the time, and with print media on the downswing, I would have had to move," she said. "At the time, I really wasn’t ready to leave the area, so I stayed here and bought a duplex on the North Side that I renovated. I waited tables until I figured out what I wanted to do."
That old house helped Hienz find her path. Unable to afford a professional electrician, Hienz started taking classes to teach herself how to bring her duplex up to code. Her instructor encouraged her to become an electrician, and a few years later, Hienz took the advice, joining Pittsburgh's International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union #5, working out in the field for various contractors.
Today Hienz is a full-time instructor at the IBEW Local Union #5 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, a position that led her back to Point Park. She will complete her master's degree in Adult Learning and Training this summer.
"I knew I had the electrical background, but I didn’t have the teaching skills the program deserved," she said. "I wanted to improve myself for my students."
In the Q&A below, Hienz, who was named a 2021 Distinguished Alumni and joined the Alumni Board of Directors, shares how Point Park's program has elevated her teaching skills.
What drew you back to Point Park for your master's degree?
I couldn’t think of a better place than Point Park. My sister actually graduated from the School of Education, and she is returning this fall for her certificate as a reading specialist. I always loved Point Park and admired what they had done for us in the past as far as tailoring your path. They were so hands-on and helpful to everybody. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. It has such a personal feel to it.
This took a lot for me coming from construction to take that step. I felt welcomed from the beginning. I was encouraged to apply. I was nervous about being an online student. I didn’t know what to expect because it had been so long since I had been in school, and it couldn’t have gone better. I wouldn’t change a minute of my education.
What do you like about the Adult Learning and Training program?
I was a nontraditional student teaching at a vocational school, but all of the faculty welcomed me with open arms, especially professors Vincenne Revilla Beltrán and Barbara Frey. Instead of trying to fit me into the program, they worked around what my needs were. They were gifted at determining my needs when I didn’t know what I didn’t know. With Point Park's faculty, you can tell it’s not a job. It’s their calling.
How has the program transformed you as an educator?
I get to immediately apply what I’m learning. Having no prior training as far as teaching adult learners, I knew they had different needs, but I didn’t know how to address those needs. The program helped me make that immediate identification and understand what I was really looking for – that road map for becoming learner-centered. The results were immediate. It’s fantastic to get my apprentices’ input.
I didn’t realize how vast adult education is. When I thought of adult education before enrolling in this program, it was, “I’m going to take a couple classes because I need to use this right now, or I want to get a better job." I am now aware of so many other formal adult education programs, such as teaching literacy, English as a second language, religious education and military education. It has opened me up to so many possibilities as an educator.
I also thought adult education was very structured before. I was expecting to learn the material the way I had in the past, but so much has changed in education. My instructors introduced me to many different formats of teaching, and they opened my eyes to technology's role in the classroom. They drew so much creativity out of me, and now I am making use of technology that I hadn't even used a year ago. I am learning by doing and passing it on directly in my classroom.
Is there anything else you would like to add?My growth has been incredible. In August, though it’s going to be the end, it’s really just the beginning.