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I Am a Humane Educator: Natalie Krivas

An interview with IHE alumna Natalie Krivas

To start, tell us a bit about yourself, your passions, and your current pursuits.

I am mom to Elianna, partner to Peter, sister to Bobby, and companion to several household friends, including our three dogs: Perry, Sammy, and Duncan.

I am involved in various community efforts, mindfully making space for voices from all backgrounds while contributing towards sustainable, thriving systems for all. Among those efforts, I am working with a local nonprofit serving more than 1,000 individuals with disabilities and serving with a district-wide school foundation. I strive to serve as an active member of my community and a strong model for my family and students. 

My professional pursuits involve organizational consultation services through Krivas Consulting, LLC and serving as faculty at Valparaiso University teaching international graduate students. I also facilitate connections between individuals and organizations so they can collaborate to more effectively and efficiently serve the community.

What drew you to the field of humane education?

The critical and systems thinking with a focus on actionable, sustainable change are, hands-down, what drew me to – and have maintained – my interest in the field of humane education. The humane education philosophy and the solutionary process work in tandem to create transformational experiences while providing practical resources for individuals to align their actions with their values. They create access points for others to view the world through an accurate, systems-level, interconnective lens. This interconnected, systemic approach to problem-understanding and problem-solving is, for me, an unprecedented and truly sustainable response to the world’s call for change. 

For my Ph.D. dissertation, I studied a large-scale initiative to implement a solutionary-focused curriculum. It was important for me to understand how this methodology may be operationalized across entire school districts and to establish its practicality in dynamic educational environments and communities. The learning from this study helped to determine best practices in my own profession, and the study itself contributed to the emerging scholarship on humane education as a strong force for sustainable, inclusive change through education.

As faculty at Valpo University, I will co-facilitate (with IHE alumna and humane educator Stacy Hoult!) a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) series called Fostering Community & Student Engagement, which will make space for the solutionary process at the higher-ed faculty level. During the first semester, the FLC will meet weekly to learn about humane education and experience the solutionary process. We will reflect, engage, and listen to the connections we make as we learn. In the second semester, each FLC member will create a module or unit plan that incorporates the solutionary process, as it pertains to their subject content, and apply it to at least one of their courses. We will reflect, engage, and listen throughout this process to support each other. 

I am excited about this endeavor. There is great potential for faculty to learn practical ways to engage their students in powerful, systemic, and action-oriented learning. The conditions will be set for both faculty and students to experience the transformational impact of the solutionary process. There is, of course, the ripple-effect benefit to our surrounding communities. This experience will also contribute to my own observations of how a solutionary approach can be implemented in my particular region. This understanding will help me as I develop practical solutionary curricula that are sustainable in our Midwest setting.

How do you stay energized and motivated in this work?

I dedicate a lot of my energy and focus to the learner: secondary students; undergraduates and graduate populations; educational professionals; and anyone with a spirit for curiosity and learning. There is so much need for community involvement that I spend significant time making connections within those areas. These are the people, connections, and efforts that rejuvenate me! They give me hope for the future. I think most people would be surprised to learn how powerfully impactful people can be when given access to accurate information and offered spaces to cultivate compassion and hope. My energy is unbounded when I see the light of hope flicker in the eyes of our younger generations – I want to recreate experiences like these in every space I can.

Of course, I do get tired. However, the more I align my actions with my values, the more purposeful and connected I feel, and these feed my inner joy. When I center my efforts on others, I am less self-centered. It doesn’t mean I put myself last; it means I place the well-being of society as an integral priority with my own sense of success and achievement. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

I have another quote from Ursula Wolfe-Rocca that has resonated with me for many years. It speaks to what keeps me going and inspires me toward community action:

“It can be overwhelming to witness/experience/take in all the injustices of the moment; the good news is that *they’re all interconnected.* So if your little corner of work involves pulling at one of the threads, you’re helping to unravel the whole damn cloth.” 

What is something that has inspired you recently?

For one of my undergraduate courses, we read Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It is a story about a Hmong child, Lia, and her family, who emigrated to the United States from Laos during a time when the Western healthcare system was not aware of the diverse medical traditions of cultures. Lia suffered from epilepsy, a neurological disorder considered divine by her people. Lia and her family were greatly misunderstood and poorly served by the medical system in their town of Merced, California, over the span of many years. As a result, Lia spent most of her life in a minimally-conscious state. This true story so very profoundly represents the rippled impact of systemic issues on individual beings. It also tells how individual beings can mutually impact entire systems. Because of the tenacious actions of a few individuals, the healthcare system changed, affecting an entire system and population within a large-scale nation. This story illustrates the relational impact of actions, both small and large.

I can become disheartened and disillusioned by entrenched systems perpetuated by self-serving people. But this story reminded me so profoundly of the actual, indisputable impact that just one parent, teacher, or caring community member can make. That tells me that I have to keep trying, even when the impact seems too small or distant to see. 

There is so much work that can be done. Pick up the shovel and dig in. Even the smallest efforts will bring you an immense sense of purpose and a deep connection to the world, within and beyond your periphery.

Where can people keep up with you and learn more about your work?

Please find me on LinkedIn, my Facebook Humane Ed page tobehuman(e), or reach out via email at natalie.krivas@valpo.edu. I’d love to connect and hear from you – really!

Feel inspired? You can read more stories of humane educators in action here.