When Kimberly Gatz was growing up on a farm in nearby Malta, she had thoughts of someday becoming an author. She enjoyed telling stories, hearing stories and writing stories. She loved reading about early settlements and women throughout history.
She decided to enroll in the University of Illinois, where she focused her studies on the two topics she knew best: writing and agriculture. As a communication major, her courses introduced aspects of journalism, media and advertising that prepared her for a job at John Deere after college.
Unsettled in her career, Gatz decided to switch gears and pursue a master’s in communication studies at NIU in 2003. On the first day of class, Gatz had a life-changing realization – she wanted to teach. By August 2005 she was employed as an instructor at the university.
“I knew I was home when I took my first graduate class,” Gatz said. “Everything felt right and I knew this is where I needed to be; I knew I needed to teach.”
Former student Jillian Teegarden expressed appreciation for Gatz’s uncanny ability to positively impact students.
“Mrs. Gatz is really passionate about teaching, and you can see that in the classroom,” Teegarden said. “She creates a classroom atmosphere that puts you in a better mood. She definitely cares a lot about her students’ needs.”
For Gatz, teaching is an opportunity to help students reach their full potential by instilling a sense of confidence.
“On a regular basis I get to watch as they gain confidence in themselves while giving a presentation or sharing ideas with their classmates,” Gatz said. “It’s a rewarding experience unlike any other.”
Having worked at John Deere for a number of years following college, Gatz brings real-world examples to the classroom that benefits her students. “I think students appreciate the real-world corporate experience that I bring,” she said. “Helping students prepare themselves take on their careers means the world to me.”
Thomas Hallock, a former student, expressed admiration for Gatz’s ability to resonate with students.
“Mrs. Gatz’s passion for and commitment to teaching is epitomized by her relentless desire to see her students succeed,” he said. “She is engaging, thoughtful and supportive.”
“I go to teach every day keeping the students in mind, that they are the focal point of what I do,” Gatz said, “The students are everything to me.”
Gatz lives in Steward, and has three children – the oldest being a sophomore health sciences major at NIU.