Career Stepping Stones: Millikin’s Kailee Itzenhuiser Continues to Build Her Teaching Experiences

Also a standout on the volleyball court, the junior Elementary Education major has gained important teaching experience in schools in Argenta-Oreana, Decatur and Warrensburg-Latham.

Kailee Itzenbhuiser

**Kailee will be taking over Millikin's Instagram account on Wednesday, April 24, so stop by to get a closer look at her day as a Big Blue student.**

DECATUR, Ill. – Growing up, Millikin University Elementary Education major Kailee Itzenhuiser’s desire to be a teacher sometimes got her in a bit of trouble. When given an assignment in elementary school, the Big Blue junior would often not get started on her own work and instead turn her attention to her classmates. 

“I've just always had an intuition to go to the kids who are falling behind and need a little bit more help,” Kailee said. “All my teachers always commented that I was helping other students before I was doing my own work, so I was getting in trouble for that.”

Kailee has continued that passion for helping others by adding Special Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsements to her curriculum. 

While she dreamed of becoming a teacher, it wasn’t until Kailee’s first year at Millikin that she got her first in-classroom teaching experience. It was also the first opportunity to see if her dream was truly going to become a career reality. 

“I have loved getting into the classroom. I'm very hands-on, and I learn well by experimenting and exploring. You can only learn so much through textbooks,” Kailee said. “When you start at Millikin, it's up to you if you want to jump in completely or just want observe. I was like, all right, push me in the deep end. Let me grade papers, let me work with students individually. Starting to do those individualized things with students helped me commit to that this is what I want to do. As a kid, you can talk all you want, but until you go and do it, you don’t really know if it is for you.”

While at Millikin, Kailee has spent time at Argenta-Oreana Elementary, Decatur’s Johns Hill Elementary and Hope Academy, and is currently interning in a second-grade classroom at Warrensburg-Latham Elementary School. 

“At Johns Hill, I was in ESL, and at Hope Academy, I got to go for Special Ed. In Argenta, I was in fourth grade, and now I’m in second grade. I’ve had a large variety of different grades, different environments,” Kailee said. “At Hope Academy, I was a part of a life skills class. They don't necessarily teach or focus on math and science and reading, but they're focusing on other life skills. Can I go brush my teeth alone? Can I walk around the halls and know my manners? Instead of it being a first-grade classroom, it is first grade through third.”

Kailee Itzenhuiser
Millikin's Kailee Itzenhuiser (5) led the team with 460 kills last season. 

Millikin first came on Kailee’s radar during high school as she explored schools where she could continue her volleyball career. Three years later, she is a Big Blue team captain and led the team in kills (460) and serving aces (84) last season, while being named to the all-conference first team for the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). The team also returned to the NCAA DIII Tournament for the second consecutive season. 

Kailee also has an extensive coaching career and is a coach for the Illini United Volleyball Club in Decatur. Being a leader allows her to bring the lessons from her School of Education curriculum to the team. 

“At first, my interest in Millikin was volleyball, but then I found out they had a great Education program, so I was even more interested,” Kailee said. “Being a coach is honestly putting my two favorite things together -- teaching and volleyball – and being able to coach young children to grow in the sport. They love that and I love to share my passion for the game, even with my teammates. I try to take the underclassmen under my wing. When I leave here next year, I want to make sure that my impact is made and that they continue growing the program because it is a great program.”

Women's Volleyball
Members of the MIllikin Women's Volleyball Team visited Florence in January.

In January, Kailee was among a group of Big Blue Volleyball players who took part in a 12-day immersion trip to Italy. They toured Rome, Florence, Lucca, Venice and Padova and played several exhibitions against club and professional teams. 

“It was a great experience. They have a couple of different rules and play with a different ball than we do here,” she said. “It was interesting to see a different culture, not only in the traveling aspect, but also seeing the sport that you've played for so long and seeing that they do it differently over there. Talking to the players about it was really inspiring.”

Senior year for Elementary Education majors at Millikin is a big one, as the spring semester is devoted to student teaching, while in the fall, students get to introduce themselves to the classes they will lead in their final semester. 

“I think that here at Millikin, it's like stepping stones. You are slowly working your way up, and once you get to the top of the hill, you will feel completely confident,” Kailee said. “I am doing lessons right now, even if I'm in an internship and I'm not actually student teaching. I'm teaching lessons about math and science and a wide variety so that when I step into student teaching next year, I feel like I will be prepared, and I can manage different things that will come across me because of what Millikin has taught me.”