Member Spotlight: Kari Vogelgesang

AACTE’s Member Spotlight features an individual from a member institution, highlighting how their work makes a difference in classrooms across the country. Nominate yourself or another member by providing a response to the following questions and sending to

Kari VogelgesangMeet Kari Vogelgesang …

Position/Institution: clinical associate professor and director, professional development at Iowa Center for School Mental Health, Baker Teacher Leader Center
College of Education, University of Iowa

      1. How long have you been a member of AACTE?
        I’ve been a member with AACTE for 7 years.

      2. Why did you join AACTE?
        The University of Iowa has had a membership for our teaching and learning faculty since I was hired … and maybe before I was hired?

      3. Why did you decide to enter the field of educator preparation? 
        When I was a practicing elementary school teacher and started working with student teachers, I knew that I wanted to move over to educator preparation. In addition, while completing my master’s program, I surprisingly fell in love with research—particularly research that focused on better understanding classroom practices that can lead to healthier outcomes for our students. 

      4. What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment of your career so far?
        Learning from my colleagues and students. The best part of this career is having opportunities every single day to learn from my colleagues and/or students. I feel blessed to be surrounded by brilliant people who inspire me both professionally and personally.

      5. What’s one thing—educator preparation-related or not—you learned in the last month?
        This year, I have the opportunity to work with a select group of colleagues across the University of Iowa in a Neuroscience, Development, and Mental Well-Being Learning Lab. This ideas lab provides University of Iowa researchers a special opportunity to work together to help discover how we assess and measure mental health and connect it to the physiological changes in the brain and body. The goal of this team effort is to generate new ideas that will play a constructive role in helping to alleviate the risk and burden of mental health issues throughout a person’s life. In our last meeting, I learned that neuroscientists have noticed adolescents reporting greater issues with impulse control and mental well-being also showed reduced myelin-related growth, or growth at a slower rate, in their prefrontal cortex. This makes a person wonder, can we look to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to better predict and provide individualized, evidence-based social-emotional-behavioral health interventions for children and adolescents?

      6. What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
        I’m a single mother who is extremely dedicated and engaged in the lives of my children and their friends. I take this job, the job of mothering not only my children, but the children of our community very seriously. However, I’m also nearly as equally passionate about my career. The thought/belief that keeps me going is, the more I learn about the emotional-social-behavioral health of children and adolescents, the better I can serve and prepare our future teachers— which in turn means our communities will be healthier and happier places to live.

      7. What advice would you give someone who is interested in working in this field?
        The better you understand child development, particularly the social-emotional-behavioral health of people, the easier it’s going to be to connect with and build relationships with your students, families, and colleagues. This career is all about relationship building. Learning subject-specific content isn’t difficult; understanding how to connect with children/adolescents, and get them motivated is our real work.

      8. Who or what inspires you?
        My children. I’ve been blessed with two boys (and their friends) who offer me daily challenges and love. They give me hope, they inspire me, they force me to practice patience and unconditional love. They are the center/heart of what I do.

      9. What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
        I’m an introvert. Most people think that I’m an outgoing person who enjoys social events. However, I really just can’t wait to go home, put on my sweatpants, and lounge around my house—or go for a long run.  

      10. What is your favorite part about being a member of AACTE?
        AACTE has proven to be one of the most important professional development opportunities for me. From the relationships I’ve made, to the content I’ve learned and explored with colleagues, I’ve always left the Annual Meeting feeling inspired and motivated. In addition, the connections through various TAGs and the newsletters that arrive in my inbox keep me up to date with what teacher preparation programs are doing, and how they are managing/problem-solving shared issues related the field of education.

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Meghan Grenda

Director of Membership, AACTE