By: Sarah J. Schwarz
“I just went on our vacation to St. Martin over spring break and I almost drowned on the first day we were there, and I’m a good swimmer. I mean literally I was a wreck. We were there for an about hour and I almost drowned.” How many professors have lived through tornados, potentially deadly car crashes, almost drowning and still teach because they want to change people’s lives. In my recent interview with Karen DeFrancesco, she dished on her near death experiences and why she has been an educator for thirty years now.
A Bloomsburg University alumni, Mrs. DeFrancesco, a communication studies professor at Bloomsburg University and Susquehanna University, feels like she has made it to where she is supposed to be in life. When her children were younger she worked at a radio station writing and producing commercials. The radio station closed and that is when she returned to the field of teaching—not communication but at a business school. She taught everything from insurance coding (which she knew nothing about) to legal terminology.
When Ms. DeFrancesco speaks about teaching you can hear how much she truly loves what she does. “I fell into, I think, what I was meant to do. I love it. I absolutely love it.” At Susquehanna University she teaches career planning and one of the activities she does with her students at the beginning of the semester is she has them take out a pen and write their signature with their opposite hand they are used to normally writing with. After they write their name she asks how it felt and the students always say it is awful and did not feel natural. She tells her students it is the same way with their careers. They can get up and do many things with their days but are they really going to enjoy what they do because that is what it comes down to. Mrs. DeFrancesco has found what she enjoys and wants to share it with others.
I asked how long Mrs. DeFrancesco saw herself being an educator and she only had one word: forever. Even when she retires she wants to stay involved in education because she cannot see her life without some type of interaction with it. She is leaning towards getting involved with workshops but she can see herself getting into communication research. She would also like to write articles about college students and listening.
Lara Calo, a Bloomsburg University sophomore, said, “Mrs. DeFrancesco’s class is so relaxed. You do not have to be worried about being put down and she gives great positive feedback. She helps you grow through her class.” Most people dread taking public speaking and Mrs. DeFrancesco tries to remove all of the anxiety from her class setting making students feel more comfortable.
Mrs. DeFrancesco really looks to make a difference in students’ lives. “Even if it’s just one person, at least I am making a difference in this world. I think of silly things like when I am dead and gone will it have mattered that much to that many people and hopefully it will to a hand full of people that I have made a difference to,” Mrs. DeFrancesco said. She tries to build confidence in her students which shows through to other aspects of their lives not just in communication.
Mrs. DeFrancesco’s advice to students: “Use this time wisely, reflect on the area you are in and make sure you the fit in area you are choosing. Make sure that your major is something that you feel like you want to do with the rest of your life. Take the four years you have here and make the most of it. Get involved. Advance yourself in every way possible in the right direction so when you get out of here you have given yourself every advantage possible to succeed.”