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Why I Give: ‘I Hope Students, Especially Immigrants and Students from Minority Populations, Get the Opportunity to Become a Teacher,’ Says University Program Associate Kirsten Hoeflaken ‘18MED

Kirsten Hoeflaken with her family

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly “Why I Give” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they support the college.

Born and raised in Maarssen, Netherlands, Kirsten Hoeflaken ‘18MED always wanted to be a teacher. She was inspired by her fifth grade teacher, who built relationships with his students, cared about them in his classroom and always created a feeling of belonging. 

“I think education is all about giving the students what they need, by building relationships and creating an environment where students feel that they belong and are cared about,” she said. 

Hoeflaken, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from universities in the Netherlands, spent more than 20 years teaching special education and elementary education in the Netherlands before moving to the United States in 2013 when her husband was offered a job as a professor in NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles. 

When they initially arrived in the U.S., Hoeflaken was unable to work on the visa she had at the time. Ultimately, she was hired by the NC State College of Education in April 2015 to work in the dean’s office. Now, she serves as a university program associate.

In her role, she works for knowledge management and assessment, where she oversees and collects data for annual reporting and accreditation. She also supervises the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students who are in the elementary education content area of study.

“I really enjoy mentoring and guiding these students to become awesome teachers,” she said.

Aside from data collection and writing reports, Hoeflaken also supports Erin Horne, Ph.D., assistant dean for assessment and professional education, and her office. 

“I am very grateful for the opportunity I got at the College of Education. Being an immigrant and adjusting to a new culture and language was not easy for our family,” Hoeflaken said. “I am still very grateful that the college helped me with the visa process and was willing to invest in me.”

Hoeflaken went on to earn her Master of Education in curriculum and development supervision in 2018 from the college and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in the program area of study in educational evaluation and policy analysis within the college’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development. 

When she isn’t studying for her doctorate, Hoeflaken enjoys spending time with her family and watching sports live or on TV. She especially likes watching soccer (Premier League Soccer mostly), college football and is a big fan of the Olympic games. She also enjoys jigsaw puzzles and playing board games. 

In the Q&A below, Hoeflaken talks about what she enjoys most about working for the College of Education, why she gives to the college, how education has shaped her and how she hopes her gift will support students from minority populations. The following is edited for length and clarity.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the NC State College of Education?

I am really enjoying working with my student teachers and cooperating teachers and seeing how they grow into beginning teachers. And I enjoy being part of teacher preparation here in the state and working for one of the best colleges in the country.

How has education impacted you? 

I think that different people throughout my education impacted me the most. Teachers that gave me what I needed and gave me the feeling of belonging and safety to explore and cared about me. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student here in the college, along with my job. This helps me to understand the education system, the political climate, inequity and racial issues in this country and in education.

Why do you give to the NC State College of Education? 

Because I am very grateful for the opportunity I got at the College of Education. Being an immigrant and adjusting to a new culture and language was not easy for our family. I am still very grateful that the college helped me with the visa process and was willing to invest in me.

What do you hope to see happen as a result of your gift?

I hope that students, especially immigrants and students from minority populations, get the support they need and get the opportunity to become a teacher here at NC State.

Why do you feel it’s important to give back?

It is my way of giving back to the college that helped me. Having a job at NC State has helped me in so many ways and I hope that more students get that opportunity.

What is the last thing you read, saw, heard, or experienced that inspired you?

At this moment I am reading and listening to A Promised Land by Barack Obama. Since the pandemic, I also started listening to different podcasts. I am inspired by the podcasts from Brené Brown, who is a qualitative researcher and is studying the topics of shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy.