Crystal Kochendorfer: Graduate #1
At UCI's 50-year celebration, held February 5, 2016, the School of Education hosted a tribute to founding faculty, staff, and students. Crystal Kochendorfer, the first graduate from the School of Education's forerunner - the Office of Teacher Education - contributed her memories of the early days at UCI.
We are sharing historic recollections at this time with a wider audience since we believe information from the past helps in our understanding of the current accomplishments of the School.
Memories of UCI by Crystal Kochendorfer: Graduate #1
Think The Beatles, Bee Hive hairdos, Simon and Garfunkel, the Vietnam War, Dick Dale and the Dell Tones, the beginning of Medicare, mini skirts, transcendental meditation. It’s 1966 in Orange County, the year I graduated from USC, married, moved from LA to Santa Ana, and worked as a social worker for Los Angeles County.
My experiences as a social worker convinced me I wanted to teach children to read so that they could be independent learners and masters of their own fate. There were two schools that offered Credential Programs in Orange County: Cal State Fullerton and UCI.
I was drawn to UCI because it was just starting teacher education, and I wanted to be part of something new. I also had respect and confidence in the University of California even though I was a Trojan grad.
What was UCI like in 1967? In 1967, I was a newly enrolled UCI graduate student. The campus didn’t look like any university campus I had seen. It was vast and bare. A handful of modern, concrete buildings were sprinkled around Aldridge Park, which consisted of grass, walkways and young trees. Acres of virgin land and the absence of mature trees created a somewhat sterile atmosphere. There were no parking structures, only dirt parking lots, which were located downhill from the new buildings. $18 covered the yearly parking pass, and no one raced for a parking space. There was plenty of room for all.
While the campus seemed sterile to me, the instructors and administrators in those few buildings were warm and welcoming. These UCI pioneers prepared me to be a classroom teacher and nurtured my passion for education, a passion that remains with me today.
There was psychology professor Alan Gross, who guided me through my first research project and held class in his home and students’ homes.
Also, psychology professor Joe Hart, who led our graduate psychology class through a marathon 24-hour class when we were studying the effects of sleep deprivation.
While I am grateful to these and others, I am most grateful to Dr. Kenneth Bailey, the Director of the Office of Teacher Education. When I went to his office to introduce myself and seek his assistance in registering for classes, I found a large man in a tiny space. He was unpacking cardboard boxes that surrounded him in stacks. He looked up as I entered, smiled, and said,
"Oh, you’re here. I really didn’t expect you to show. You are the first!"
Dr. Bailey was a visionary and a pragmatist. For the three of us who enrolled in the elementary credential program that year, he developed individualized programs that met the university and the state requirements for teacher credentialing, using all available resources including UCI Extension courses, graduate courses in our graduate majors, and even teaching courses to the three of us. I had the good fortune to have an independent study class where Dr. Bailey and I would meet every week to discuss the assigned readings.
Dr. Bailey’s efforts to prepare the first three students and all the students who enrolled in the Teacher Education Program, coupled with the years of leadership he provided to the University’s Office of Teacher Education, laid a stable foundation for the leaders and the instructors who followed. They, too, have made their contributions; and today UCI is a highly respected university, covered with endless buildings and parking structures, home to nationally-recognized professional schools, surrounded by a thriving community that provides services and housing to students, and teeming with highly qualified students who do have to race each other to limited parking spaces.
The Office of Teacher Education became the Department of Education and then achieved full status as a ranked School of Education under Dr. Deborah Vandell and her team.
I am grateful to the University for all it has given me, for what it has brought to Orange County, and I treasure my memories of those early days.
About Crystal Kochendorfer
Upon receiving her Teacher Credential from UCI’s Office of Teacher Education in 1968, Crystal Kochendorfer taught first at Top of the World Elementary School in Laguna Beach, where she had completed her student teaching. At Top of the World, Crystal participated in the development of a model program of team teaching and differentiated staffing. Subsequently, she taught Junior First Grade at Van Buren Elementary School in Placentia for one year but then returned to Top of the World, having missed teaching in a program that promoted team teaching, differentiated staffing, and flexible grouping of students.
With the birth of her first child, Crystal combined childrearing, a career in interior design, and extensive volunteering in Laguna Niguel schools. As a school volunteer, she helped to develop and implement a gifted and talented program, taught in the Junior Great Books program, tutored in the classroom, served in PTO and PTA leadership roles, and was the President of a Board of Directors for a pre-school formed to include special needs children.
Crystal’s leadership experience soon led to broader public service. She was an elected member on the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees for 18 years, including three terms as Board President. She served as President of the Orange County School Board Association, two years as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Capistrano-Laguna Beach Regional Occupational Program, and 15 years as a delegate to the California School Boards Association. Crystal was one of the original Commissioners to the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, and served on the Commission for 13 years, including one year as Commission Chair.
During her years of service, Crystal regularly communicated with her state and national congressional representatives. She was appointed by the President of California School Boards Association to join with their executive committee in representing school board members from California and traveling to Washington D.C., where they met with the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and Transportation, and the Drug Czar.
As a founding member of the School of Education’s Dean’s Advisory Board and a member of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, Crystal has continued to contribute important perspectives on preK-12 learning.
Professor Mark Warschauer, Crystal Kochendorfer, Founding Dean Deborah Vandell
50 Year Celebration, April 2015
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