Dr. Kristy Lee Dracker Hochenberger has been teaching in higher education for the last 15 years. She began at the Simmons Institute of Funeral Service Inc., and over the years she has pursued many different interests. She has a deep internal motivation to excel at everything she puts her mind to, and her resumé illustrates her commitment to excellence as well as a boundless curiosity. As she has said about herself, “I have experience in and mastered areas in the fields of funeral service, embalming and restorative art; early childhood education and collegiate level; history and art history; business and entrepreneurship; graphic design and digital imaging; social media advertising and marketing, research and investigative techniques, health and fitness, kickboxing, and weightlifting.” This trove of accomplishments and experiences helped Hochenberger land her first job for Syracuse University in the iSchool as an adjunct instructor.
Having recently finished her doctorate studies in psychology, she continues her work with the iSchool while writing and researching for her mental wellness blog. She is currently teaching Social Media in the Workplace and Intro to Information-Based Organizations. With her multidisciplinary background, Hochenberger loves how her current work utilizes skills and knowledge from so many of her previous professional and educational experiences. She enjoys injecting all of her interests into her curriculum, and covering the sprawling landscapes of various topics like the psychology of businesses, working in professional teams, resiliency and post-traumatic growth, and leadership principles. Hochenberger chuckles but says with all seriousness, “Much to the annoyance of my students sometimes, I bring in a lot of history of social media, communication technology, and disability/diversity issues. I tell them constantly that you cannot understand where we are today as a society, especially with technology, unless you understand where we came from.”
You wouldn’t necessarily know when you’re Zooming with her, but Hochenberger has been experiencing hearing loss for almost her entire life. She learned to speak at an average age, progressed traditionally through school, and health professionals didn’t notice it until she was in the fourth grade. Now, without her hearing aids she is almost completely deaf; and this is an important part of what makes Hochenberger such a unique learner and educator. “Growing up, I didn’t have special accommodations or high-tech hearing aids. I instinctually learned how to adapt, such as relying on lip reading and the written word.” She had no choice but to push on as if she did not have any limitations at all, and that rallying spirit forged a quality of perseverance that has carried her throughout her entire life.
Her first semester teaching at the iSchool was when the pandemic struck, and despite the scramble to move all of the classes into an online format, Hochenberger was well-prepared because of her extensive background and experience working with telecommunications, especially in education. She had been adopting and adapting to these methods of learning her entire life because of her hearing loss, and she had completed both her Master degree and Doctorate through online platforms. She actually felt a little ahead of the curve as the rest of the world raced to implement and learn “new” technologies.
Her attitude and strategy for learning and teaching are what make Hochenberger a truly unique educator. She wants her students, her T.A.s, and even herself, to continue to approach education as an adventure and not a chore. She endeavors to have a positive impact on the world and on her community, and she is making her mark through teaching at the iSchool. Hochenberger says, “The flexibility of the iSchool, and the family atmosphere, made it so that I could succeed, not only as a teacher, but as a student and as a parent. We are all multi-faceted and the iSchool made it possible for me to succeed professionally, academically, and personally.”
Hochenberger’s goal is to engulf her students in the same ‘family atmosphere’, so that they are comfortable and excited to learn. The mental health of her students is a priority for her, and since the disruptions of the pandemic, she is focused on it more than ever. As an educator, she strives to provide personal connection and investment with each of her students. “I practically beg my students to communicate with me. I can’t help you if I don’t know there’s a problem. I inject funny stories and real experiences to my class lectures, and try to connect with each person. I bring snacks to class to share, because as a mother of three children and a former preschool director, I know that children cannot learn if they are hungry or tired or stressed out. Plus with inflation and the economy, a student may be struggling with whether or not they can afford dinner, and I can’t let that happen on my watch. As long as those students are in my class, they are my responsibility.”
Hochenberger is building an exciting culture and energy around her coursework with the collaboration of her T.A.s and students. She mentions how much she learns from the people she works with, including her students, and that it feels like a blurring of the line between student and teacher. “The greatest compliment I receive is when a student says they were encouraged by a friend to take my class, or when I am asked what other classes I teach so they can enroll.” The desire to find opportunities to learn from unlikely sources is a fundamental part of Hochenberger’s relationship with education, and she brings that unrelenting curiosity to her work at the iSchool for every class. An iSchool education can land a student a good job after graduation, but an iSchool degree combined with internalizing Hochenberger’s zeal for learning will make for a rewarding and fulfilling future.