Over the course of 160 years, Winona State University has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of education through creating a corps of teachers well-poised to face the educational needs of tomorrow.

Katie Schlegel is excited to be part of this next generation of new teachers. The WSU junior has already begun exploring her opportunities to educate future generations of Minnesotans and currently tutors students at Winona Senior High School and Winona Middle School each week. She particularly enjoys her work with the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, which is designed to hold students to a high educational standard and provide academic and social support.

“It has been a great experience being in these classrooms and getting to hang out with the students and helping them to achieve their full potential,” Schlegel said, adding that working to close the educational gap reinforces the feeling that she can make a real difference as an educator.

“For me, being an educator goes far beyond just helping students with their studies. I get the chance to connect with them as a friend and mentor.”

Schlegel, who is majoring in Secondary Mathematics Education and Spanish, said her philosophy and approach to education has been shaped by the supportive academic environment at Winona State, and the relationships she has with her professors.

“The professors at Winona are awesome,” Schlegel said. “They take the time to get to know you and genuinely care about how you do in their class.”

Schlegel said she once took a lecture class in which there were more than 75 students, but the professor still made a concerted effort to learn the students’ names and get to know each student in the class.

“I saw him a year later and he still remembered my name,” she recounted. “Professors here care about you. You don’t see that everywhere you go.”

Schlegel also looks to her professors for inspiration about the kind of educator she hopes to one day become. She said that Dr. Barry Peratt of the Mathematics & Statistics department is one of her favorite professors because she admires his kind nature and how he conducts his classes.

“He is funny, caring and understanding. I hope that when I am a teacher I will be as effective as he is,” she said.

Outside of classes, the New Berlin, Wis., native keeps busy with extracurricular activities. She is a member of the Winona State softball team and also serves as Vice President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Community engagement is one of the pillars of the WSU Athletics program, said Schlegel, and being involved with softball and the SAAC has afforded her many opportunities to get involved both on campus and in the Winona community. Since May 2017, she has logged over 134 hours of community service through Helper Helper, a student-athlete led community engagement platform.

Her volunteer activities have included outreach on mental health awareness; a Warriors Got Talent event that raised nearly $1,100 for Make-A-Wish; creation of a video honoring coaches, administrators and players for National Girls and Women in Sports Day; and collecting cans and non-perishable food items to donate to the Food Shelf at Winona Volunteer Services for “Trick-or-Treat for Cans.”

In October 2017, an event Schlegel helped organize was recognized by the NCAA as a finalist for the DII Award of Excellence. The “Healthy Kids Zombie Crawl” invited children from the local community to campus to participate in wellness-themed activities and eat healthy snacks. According to Schlegel, being named a finalist by the NCAA was just “a cherry on top” of an already rewarding experience.

“I love meeting and talking with people because everyone is so nice and grateful for the activities we put on,” said Schlegel. “Any time we can get involved in the community and give back to Winona is great, and we all had so much fun interacting with the local kids.”

For Schlegel, being a part of the softball team and the greater Warrior Athletics community made Winona feel like home, and helped reinforce her commitment to living the WSU mission: “a community of learners improving our world.”

Schlegel said, “Being a part of something bigger than yourself and working towards accomplishing our dreams is an amazing feeling.”