Not only has Barbara Ettenauer, from Vienna, Austria, completed a master’s in Special Education – she did so in her second language.
What do you love most about WOU?
I love the beautiful green lawns on campus, the very old sequoia and the library.
Why did you choose WOU?
My husband is a professor of politics here, and we live in Monmouth, so it was an easy choice. It’s also a sleepy little college town that has a beautiful green campus and a good reputation when it comes to education programs. I also liked that professors are open, friendly and support students whenever needed. This is exactly contrary to what I have experienced back in Europe.
What do you love most about the degree you completed?
In a way I loved almost everything that I needed to do when going through the Special Education program. I especially liked that we had the chance to do a variety of practical courses in different settings, where I had the chance to practice teaching strategies and explore school related topics.
What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
One of my biggest achievements was to successfully finish a master’s program in English, which is my second language.
What will you miss most about college?
Being a student.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Right now I am looking for a job in Special Education but I also think about getting my Ph.D. degree at OSU.
What advice do you have for current and future Wolves?
Enjoy learning. Take your time to study. Be on time with your assignments.
What’s the most important lesson you learned about yourself while in college?
Some vocabulary in English was quite hard and I needed to look up a lot of words. I learned that even though when I thought that I could not do it, in the very end everything got done on time. Maybe it is as one of my colleagues once said: “You can do anything for two years.”
What was it like growing up in Austria and how is it different (or similar) to the U.S.?
Growing up in Austria is not really so different than the US, other than my native language is German and at school I learned English from 3rd grade on. I think it was in 7th grade when I realized that English is a door opener for me to get in contact with other cultures. My English teacher introduced a pen-pal system called “International Youth Services” (IYS) to us. That was a chance for me to practice English and make new friends. I had to fill out an interest survey and pay a little money to get addresses from all over the world. It was exciting for me to learn more about other cultures, and within a short time I had lot of friends in the US, China and Greece. I am still in contact with a friend from Athens, Greece. We are like sisters and visited each other often since 1982.
Thinking about differences in learning I can definitely say that a student in Austria has not so many assignments to turn in but the tests you have to take are scored very strict. Here in the US you have choices about which projects you want to turn in, whereas in Austria it is different. In a way I liked the US system more although it was a lot more work.
How did you develop an interest in wanting to be a teacher?
Before I moved to the States I was a self-employed science teacher in Austria and my business was called “Science is Fun” (SPASS AM FORSCHEN). This educational company, which was created to teach basic science to children from 3- to 10-years-old, was unique because there were no science activities in Austria for children younger than 8-years-old. My program was based on inquiry based learning and offered hands-on activities only for children from 3- to 10-years-old. We tried to find answers for questions like – how can a gummy bear swim without getting wet or how can I make a magic ink? Simple questions like these train our common sense. If you know what to do, it is easy. But back in 2004 my science knowledge was lower than average, mainly because when I was in school my science teachers were never able to pique my interest. But when I realized I could conduct experiments in an interesting way, I was hooked from the very beginning.
I also gave science workshops for teachers. As a consultant and supervisor I was part of a team that won the Lower Austria Future Award in 2014 with a project called “Discovering Technical Jobs.” Last but not least, I also wrote and illustrated a fairy tale science book for elementary students, which was published in 2015 and entitled Why Is the Dressing Blue?