Humans of Tosa East; Ms. Huppertz

Jackson Crowley

Kristina Huppertz, a special education teacher at Tosa East High School, has gone through a lot throughout her career. She started off as a high school student volunteering for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom school, looking for colleges to notice her volunteering work. Her work at the Children’s Defense Fund turned into a love of the entire dynamic of teaching special education and the students. She decided to quickly change her undergrad to Special Education to pursue her passion.

Q: Why Did You Decide to Go into Special Ed?

A: “I started volunteering for the Children’s Defence Fund Freedom School down in Milwaukee. I didn’t realize that there was such a diaspora between my ivory tower in kettle moraine, and the inner-city where students who are supposed to be reading full-length sentences don’t understand letters. I started to have a crisis of conscience and think about how I can better society, and help those students get better quicker. I didn’t expect them to steal my heart, and I just fell in love with the whole classroom idea and teaching students. I think that the things we do in special education can benefit all students. Imagine being able to do some cognitive lifting in AP HUG instead of notes and just being able to engage in the class. I do feel that there is a lot to be said for universally designed instruction, which means that everyone is getting support”

Q: Was it More Challenging To Teach at Low-Income Schools?

A: “There were different challenges for sure- the socio-economics alone were very different. We’re in a very affluent school here, and compared to MPS, it is a stark contrast. I think student needs are different. At East, students will need a pencil or a brain break. Sometimes in MPS, there are students that need their basic human needs met, but all of the students are still wonderful everywhere, don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

Q: Do You Ever Lose Patience With A Student?

A: “Absolutely. I think any teacher will lose patience with a student and the main reason is that we see that you can do more, so it’s really easy to have a lack of patience when the person in front of you is capable but is just not willing to do the work. I do not think I have more patience than others. I think that I can read students better than some general education teachers can, but I do not think that I have more patience than your average person.”

Q: Have You Ever Disliked a Student?

A: “There are students that will absolutely crawl under your skin but sometimes those are the really brilliant students that can read you really well. There was one student that absolutely knew that my trigger was not having your things out in the exact order on your desk as one of your warm-ups, and he or she absolutely refused to do it because they knew that they would get a check from the teacher. I talked to them after school and I asked them “why? Why are you doing this? I know you can do this. I know you’re physically capable.” Their response was that it was the only time that I gave them full 1-on-1 attention.”