Kelsey Funk2019 Rising Alumni

Kelsey Funk

Kelsey Funk is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students for Intermediate School District 917 in Dakota County. She has a master’s in special education/deaf education. In just five years, Kelsey has implemented several programmatic and technology initiatives to connect families and recognize student successes. She started a monthly newsletter, launched a “Closed Captioning is Cool” T-shirt fundraiser, plans after-school events, and utilizes technology such as FlipGrid to combat student isolation. Kelsey believes that, especially in deaf education, we need to provide non-biased training about communication methods and access, which often can be sensitive and emotional topics for students and families. She is constantly reminded that her students with hearing loss are capable of incredible things.

Current Job

Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Intermediate District 917

CEHD Degree

MEd Special Education-Deaf Education, 2015

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

I started a monthly electronic newsletter for the families of students with hearing loss in my school district. Serving students across an entire county, it is hard to get the word out about events, news, and resources for families and help them to see the successes our deaf/hard of hearing students are achieving. It has been a huge success. I have also organized family and student events for the deaf/hard of hearing students across the Intermediate District 917 in Dakota County. Connecting students with low incidence disabilities like hearing loss (and their parents) with other students across the metro that look like them, also use cochlear implants or use sign language, and experience some of the same challenges is a really powerful experience for my students. I also recently began my journey to become a reading specialist this year to provide really language-rich literacy opportunities for my mainstreamed students during our short time together during the day.

Volunteer activities

I have served on the planning committee and helped organize county-wide events for our intermediate district, including Deaf/Hard of Hearing Student Night Out, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Family Night, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Health and Wellness Summit 2018. I also started a “Closed Captioning is Cool” campaign for shirts I designed and raised money for our district’s after-school events.

Awards or honors from collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences

Teacher of the Winter Quarter, November 2018, Intermediate District 917.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Sue Rose, Anna Paulson, and Joyce Daugaard were excellent instructors and mentors within the deaf education department. I also loved my Early Interventions for Infants, Toddlers and Preschool-Age Children who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing course with instructor Brooke Peterson, who is now my supervisor in my current position. She rocks!

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

I had secured a job before I graduated from my program and made valuable connections within the field that I still collaborate with today.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

Other teachers. Greta Hansen Begg (speech/language pathologist) was my biggest inspiration as I began my career in education. She has always provided such a beautiful example of creative and natural language opportunities for students. My group of deaf educator friends and fellow University of Minnesota graduates in my school district have also continued to inspire me. It is so wonderful to work with great humans who share ideas and continue to challenge me to push myself to learn more and grow as an educator. Also, my parents and husband Karl for their support as I continue to learn, try new things, and take on new roles.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

I believe that communication, flexibility, patience, and balance are key in succeeding in education. Especially in deaf education, we need to provide non-biased education about communication modes and access, which are often sensitive and emotional topics for students and families.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

Call my mom, snuggle my dog, peruse social media.

How do others describe you?

A passionate advocate.

How do you describe yourself?

An extroverted planner.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

Grit by Angela Duckworth. “At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.”

What gets you excited about work?

My students! I love getting to work with students of all ability types from birth to 12th grade each day. I get to see 18-month-old littles making connections and using their first words one morning and then in the afternoon travel to the high school and spend time with my older students who are growing into independent advocates. Every day is different and my students with hearing loss are capable of some pretty incredible things.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A princess. I changed my mind a million times. At one point it was lawyer and then a few years later it was musician.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I grow by continuing to learn, connecting, and asking questions. With my busy schedule, it is sometimes hard to sit down and read new research or textbooks during the week, so I like to stay in the know by listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and NPR as I drive from school to school throughout the day and on my commute. I also enjoy networking with others, especially using technology.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I played in a nationally touring handbell choir in college.