Teaching students to ask: ‘Why?’

Karrie Hamstra-Wright

“I try to bring an energy to the classroom, because I love it, too,” says Karrie Hamstra-Wright. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.

Karrie Hamstra-Wright, a three-time Silver Circle winner, enjoys seeing her students learn to ask the “why?” question.

“I like to see them come through our curriculum and connect the dots — they don’t regurgitate information back to me. They’re able to really reflect and see why something makes sense, or say, ‘I don’t agree with this.’”

This means “they are really learning to think as future clinicians,” says Hamstra-Wright, clinical associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition in the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Hamstra-Wright teaches applied anatomy, exercise injury management, modifications in exercise programming and, new this year, lower extremity overuse injury.

Most of her students plan to become physical therapists. The rest are a variety of pre-health students: pre-med or interested in chiropractic, occupational therapy or athletic training.

“Our students come to class pretty energized and excited about the content and it makes it so much fun,” she says. “Most of my classes are applied, so students see directly the application to what they’re going to do. It makes it really exciting to teach them because they get passionate about it.

“I try to bring an energy to the classroom, because I love it, too,” she says. “I like to have discussions and demonstrations as much as possible.”

Hamstra-Wright particularly enjoys seeing students from her 200-level applied anatomy class come back as seniors in her 400-level courses.

“I’m so proud of the way they can look at the current literature and analyze it,” she says. “They are not going to go out into the field and just do things because it’s always been done that way.”

Hamstra-Wright encourages her students to practice on themselves, too. “I’m a big proponent of that — we’re teaching exercise,” she says.

Hamstra-Wright has been at UIC for about 10 years.

“We have so much to offer to our students,” she says. “The campus keeps getting better, more and more beautiful and there are more and more opportunities for undergraduate students — we have the whole city.

“It’s just a great place to teach.”


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