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Sellenriek Sharpens her Skills at STLCC

March 08, 2016

Katharine Sellenriek  
Katharine Sellenriek recently was named Wildwood Middle
School's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

Ever since she was a little girl, Katharine Sellenriek had aspirations of becoming a teacher. Although teaching was her first career choice, she spent nearly three decades building a career in another industry before pursuing her childhood dream.

“I’ve known I wanted to teach family and consumer sciences (formerly home economics) since I was in the sixth grade,” she said. “I put myself through college working various catering, waitressing and fast-food jobs. When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree at the age of 21, I felt like I needed to gain some additional life experience before I could teach students about family, child development, finance, and other subjects that the home economics degree encompassed.”

As such, Sellenriek accepted a management position at a restaurant. She planned to return to teaching when she had “more” to offer her students.

One job led to another. By the time she was 23, she had worked her way up to a district manager position. From there, she became the owner of two restaurants.

“Even though I had created my own success in the foodservice industry, I still had the desire to teach,” she said. “It was a big decision, but I chose to sell both of my restaurants so I could pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.”

While Sellenriek had a lifetime teaching certificate, she chose to enroll at St. Louis Community College in 2008. The plan was to sharpen her skills and make herself more marketable to prospective employers.

“I enrolled in ‘Teaching with Field Experience’ and ‘Technology for Teachers’ at STLCC-Wildwood,” she said. “Simultaneously, I was hired by the Rockwood School District to work as a substitute teacher in family and consumer sciences.”

According to Sellenriek, this was the perfect combination and a great learning experience.

“With placement in the schools and corresponding coursework at STLCC, I was able to observe and reacquaint myself with school systems – from procedures and teaching methods, classroom management and more,” she said.

The next year, Sellenriek was offered a long-term substitute teaching position. She continued to work at a variety of schools until she was offered a full-time teaching position in 2013 at Wildwood Middle School.

“I enjoy teaching because I get to help students master important life skills and share passion for foods and sewing,” she said. “I once had a student call me a ‘school mom.’ This is a label I proudly wear because it indicates that I am a caring, loving person who only wants the best for her kids.”

Last month, Sellenriek’s excellence in education was recognized when she was named the 2016 Teacher of the Year for Wildwood Middle School. As one of Rockwood’s six middle school teachers of the year, she will compete to represent the middle school teachers in the district’s annual Teacher of the Year program.

Mark Taylor, education professor at STLCC, isn’t surprised by his former student’s success.

“When Kathy was in my class, she was engaged and excited about the prospect of becoming a teacher,” he said. “It gives me great satisfaction to see her excel in teaching.”