Posted on: April 21, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Jenna Abusalim, JRN 111 Student

From a small hometown in Pennsylvania to the Louvre in Paris, Kelly Hruby’s travels took her places that opened her eyes to new cultures. Eventually, her travels brought her to Moraine Valley, where she teaches humanities to help broaden the world of her students.

“I really never experienced or traveled much when I was younger,” Hruby said. “I was always really shy in school. So I decided I wanted to just throw myself into the deep end for a college experience.”

At the University of Virginia, she was double majoring in English and elementary education when she began researching programs to study abroad. She laughs as she says she picked Paris just because she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower.

She chose a ten-week summer program in Paris, a decision that opened her up to things she loved.

“It was life-changing,” she says. “It was the best thing I had ever done.”

Hruby brings her open-mindedness into her work with students. She is the kind of person who loves to listen to other people’s stories because she believes in learning new things even in everyday conversations. She encourages her students to come to her office hours, even just to talk.

Humanities professor Kelly Hruby shares a favorite book as part of the Moraine Reads program.

Even though she looks back on her time in Paris fondly, it was not without its challenges. If she had it to do over, she would make sure she learned the language. And on her first night, she was mugged. But that didn’t take away from the fact that her time in Paris was the best experience of her life, as it opened her eyes to seeing the real world.

 “My classes were taught at the Louvre,” she says. “It was so inspiring and so breathtaking, to be able to learn about the city and the history of all the art.”

The art history class she took sparked the biggest change in her life, causing her to reevaluate her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. She had been double majoring in English and elementary education, but she decided to add a third major, art history.

“What I have always liked about humanities is that you get this bigger picture of a culture,” she said.

She went from earning her bachelor’s degree in Virginia straight to graduate school at the University of Chicago. After earning her master’s degree, she taught part-time at Prairie State College. Without teaching experience, she had a hard time finding a full-time position. She applied to 120 different jobs that summer.

She was offered a job at a high school in Virginia, replacing a teacher who had an injury. The job was meant to last four months, but she ended up staying more permanently.

“It was kind of like trial by fire,” she says. “My first year of teaching felt like I was putting out fires left and right.”

Through three years of high school teaching, she struggled to find a balance in the classroom. She wanted to be fair but firm. In her first year, she felt she was too nice, which caused a power imbalance in her class. The second year she felt she was too strict. By the third year, she had the balance right.

I always tell my students that if you have an opportunity to live in another country, wherever that may be, seize that moment.”

Humanities Professor Kelly Hruby

She looks back on her time working at the high school level as a good place to start and says it helped her become a teacher she is proud of.

During that time, she got married, and her husband, a physician, ended up in Illinois for his residency. She applied for a position in the humanities department at Moraine Valley, and she has been here for 17 years.

When students enter Hruby’s classroom, they feel at home, as her energetic warmth eases any anxiety. She is firm, caring, kind and gentle, and her love for what she teaches comes through in a passion and excitement that radiates off of her and onto the students.

“I think if you would have asked me five years ago, who am I, as a teacher, I would have been like, ‘I’m fair, but I am firm, upfront about my rules.’ I follow through because being fair is how you keep everything even,” she says.

But teaching during a pandemic opened her up to understand that students bring different things to the table, and some students have lots of responsibilities that can affect their learning experience. She says that it has made her more flexible so that students can do their best.

It all comes back to the open-mindedness that began with a trip to Paris.

“It was life-altering in so many ways,” Hruby says. “I always tell my students that if you have an opportunity to live in another country, wherever that may be, seize that moment.”