A higher standard

Katie Espinosa of Appleton, Wisconsin, is using the classroom experience she has gained as a special education teacher to empower and advocate for students with disabilities.

Katie Espinosa.

May 6, 2024
Contact: Courtney Perrett, 573-882-6217,

University of Missouri senior Katie Espinosa has always wanted to be a teacher. At Mizzou, the hands-on learning experiences she took advantage of as a special education major sparked her passion for helping students with disabilities.

Her educational journey has included conducting research in a laboratory at Mizzou, teaching in a classroom at Columbia Public Schools and attending a national conference in San Antonio, where she received a prestigious award. Espinosa’s self-confidence and support for those with disabilities have skyrocketed along the way.

Read on for a Q&A with Espinosa about her Mizzou experience.

How did you take advantage of hands-on learning opportunities on campus?

While studying in the College of Education and Human Development, I was able to become a substitute teacher with Columbia Public Schools my junior year and gain early field experience. After learning a lot about classroom management skills, I realized how passionate I am about making accommodations to help those with disabilities grow because everybody deserves a chance to be supported and held to a high standard.

I accepted a full-time teaching position with Columbia Public Schools this spring semester thanks to the classroom experiences I gained earlier in my undergraduate career. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities Mizzou opened up for me.

What was your favorite class?

My favorite class was a behavior and classroom management class taught by Chad Rose. Not only did he make it really fun and engaging, but I also had the opportunity to work in his bully prevention research lab. There, I learned about self-efficacy in classroom management and how teachers can feel better prepared to manage a classroom when they enter the profession, which will be helpful in my future career as a special education teacher.

What was your favorite thing about campus?

I love the iconic columns on Mizzou’s Quad. I have been lucky studying in the College of Education and Human Development next to the Columns because I get to see them a lot, and it is a great place to hang out. Springtime at Mizzou is one of my favorite things because everyone is out and about and Mizzou’s campus, which doubles as a botanical garden, is in full bloom.

Why are you proud to be a Tiger?

I’m proud to be a Tiger because Mizzou has a lot to offer and is a very well-rounded university. I enjoyed the big-school experiences of tailgating before SEC football and basketball games. But I also had the opportunity to be a part of a small, tight-knit community within the special education department in the College of Education and Human Development. I’m graduating this spring with a lot of classroom experience, and I feel prepared for my future career, while still enjoying everything that college has to offer at Mizzou.

What were you involved in during your time at Mizzou?

I worked at MizzouRec in member and guest services, and I was also an ambassador for the College of Education and Human Development where I helped recruit prospective students. Perhaps my favorite extracurricular activity was my time serving as president of the Mizzou chapter of Student Council for Exceptional Children, where we support the success of young learners with disabilities. I was fortunate enough to attend the national Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo in San Antonio this March and received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year Award.

What's next for you after graduation?

After graduation, I will be a full-time special education teacher at Columbia Public Schools. I will also be pursuing a master’s degree at Mizzou, studying special education with an emphasis in early childhood and autism.

Story written by Brian Consiglio

Meet more spring 2024 graduates

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.