LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 25, 2023) — Courtney Hausman was living in New York City and pursuing a musical theater career when the COVID-19 pandemic changed her life’s trajectory.
With theater curtains closing indefinitely as the world shut down, Hausman came back home to Lexington. She decided to use the time to open a door to future possibilities by pursuing a degree at the University of Kentucky.
Prior to moving to New York, Hausman had earned a bachelor’s degree from the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music. This time around, her heart was pulled toward teaching — a passion she had discovered while supporting herself in the city.
In New York, Hausman would wake before dawn to teach online classes from her apartment. Starting at 4 a.m., she conducted one-on-one English lessons for children in China through VIP Kid.
“I loved teaching. Language education is very theatrical and uses music and movement. I taught the same students for three years, so it was also my first experience seeing the lasting impact and relationships that form between teachers, students and families,” she said.
The experience compelled Hausman to enroll in the UK College of Education as an elementary education major.
“It was a scary pivot because I have been performing for so long and view it as a throughline of my life. Since age 4 I have been in dance and voice lessons. I grew up at the Lexington Children’s Theater and Diana Evans School of Dance, and now teach at the Lexington Theatre Company. Whenever I lose myself, I go back to theater,” she said.
It was the connection she built with kids and families while teaching online, however, that helped ease her transition.
“Teaching created really special relationships and gave me balance while pursuing acting in New York,” she said. “I loved it and knew I wanted to teach in some facet, whether theater or general education.”
Hausman said she grew as an educator at UK through taking courses and completing a practicum and student teaching experience. Her favorite course was EDC 326: Teaching Social Studies in Elementary School with UK College of Education assistant professor Laura Darolia, Ph.D.
“We learned how to teach critical thinking skills and analyze viewpoints, such as those erased through history and stereotypes. We covered global awareness and how to foster exchange and how to include those things in elementary education,” she said.
Hausman’s journey as an elementary education major led to another pivot in her life. During a course taught by UK College of Education assistant professor Thais Council, Ph.D., she was inspired by Council’s experiences abroad.
“Dr. Council was another fabulous professor, and it was important to her that we were introduced to opportunities she wished she had known about as a student. She invited Ellie Holliday to come into our literacy class and talk about interesting pathways abroad,” Hausman said.
As director of undergraduate global learning initiatives in the UK College of Education, Ellie Holliday, Ph.D., connects students with chances to step out to explore.
“Students in the College of Education have so many opportunities to pursue international experiences before and after graduation,” Holliday said. “Students from any major can participate in study abroad programs directed by College of Education faculty that provide academic credit, cultural immersion and hands-on experience in another country. Teacher education majors also have the unique opportunity to apply for our overseas student teaching program, which allows them to complete a student teaching placement at one of the schools we partner with all over the world.”
Holliday also chats with students about post-graduation opportunities to teach abroad. Hausman was intrigued by the possibility of pursuing an international opportunity after completing her degree. Council and Holliday connected her with the UK Office of Nationally Competitive Awards for guidance on the application process for an English Teaching Assistant award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. After a lengthy application process, Hausman was selected for a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Taiwan for the upcoming school year. She sees it as yet another opportunity for growth as a teacher.
“As a community-engaged researcher, I challenge pre-service teachers to incorporate students' out-of-school communities into instruction,” said Council. “This can be a daunting task for students without culturally informed and accurate, community-engaged experiences. Courtney approaches teaching through a creative lens and saw a Fulbright as an opportunity to broaden her community-based perspectives and creativity. She will do great things!"
Hausman is looking forward to gaining firsthand experience in multicultural education and being a guest in another country.
“It’s going to broaden my sense of cultural awareness and give me an opportunity to share my culture with another culture and integrate that cultural exchange back into my future classroom. I also hope to learn strategies from mentors doing this longer than I have and see other teaching philosophies in practice,” she said.
Just as she did for VIP Kid, Hausman will once again be teaching English courses. This time, they will be face-to-face in Taipei, a city with many similarities to New York. One difference this time — she will be carrying the knowledge gained in earning an education degree and the experiences she had in Lexington classrooms. While at UK, she did her practicum in third grade at Clays Mill Elementary and student taught in kindergarten and fourth grade at Breckinridge Elementary. She also has experience as a teaching artist at the Lexington Theatre Company and recently worked as a paraeducator in a special education/moderate and severe disabilities classroom at Glendover Elementary.
“In teaching, it takes time to gain competence. It is so important to know how to do it effectively, because you are directly responsible for the formative years of students’ brains and hearts and mindsets. For me, that’s the driving factor of learning as much as I can, correctly, as quickly as possible. In teaching, you want to be very good, very early on, but there’s so much behind it. In theater you’re given the script and you work on it. In education, there is no script. There are so many things to juggle. There are so many variables at all times,” Hausman said.
As she grows as an educator and prepares to enter the profession full time, Hausman pulls from her performing arts background to fuel her growth.
“I find performance and teaching so similar because in both you must get the audience to listen, engage and connect with the content. Performance just shows up in education, in so many ways. I love that music helps memory and theater helps with empathy development. As teachers or performers, we create a sense of belongingness through storytelling and play, and it keeps childhood wonderment alive as students learn through play and develop their brains. I am drawn to both because performance and teaching can create a lasting impact and build community,” she said.
Upon completion of her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, Hausman hopes to earn a master’s degree and become certified to teach English as a second language, gifted and talented, and theater — to keep her future options open.
She would also like to stay active in the performing arts. Her most recent role was Emma in a Lexington production of "The Prom: The Premiere Pride Musical Event. "The production was with Voices Amplified, a theater company that empowers artists by generating brave and equitable spaces in arts education and theater performance that amplify underrepresented voices and promotes inclusivity.
“It was my first time to play someone close to my own identity, a bucket list role,” Hausman said. “I loved it and was pleased to find balance in teaching and performance.”
From pursuing the New York acting scene, to earning an education degree during a pandemic, to being selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and moving to Taiwan, Hausman is proving she is open to any path that presents opportunities for adaptation and growth, creativity, compassion and gratitude. Now, she wants these attributes to shape who she is as a teacher.
“I strive to be the kind of educator that adapts, mentors through a lens of empathy, and uplifts students’ confidence, creativity and engagement,” she said. “The arts influence how I teach and what I include creatively in lessons, how I build community and relationships. It’s kind of a lens on how to include and how to build student voice. It’s how I was raised and how I hope to teach for the rest of my life.”
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.