Helen Spader

Helen Spader

#PeopleofNIU Photo by Michelle LaVigne/Creative Services

Hometown: Lake in the Hills, IL

Major: Spanish with a teaching license

You can’t miss the enthusiasm in Helen Spader’s voice when she talks about her well-rounded NIU career.

Whether in the classroom, working side-by-side with faculty on research, volunteering in the community or pushing her limits of comfort, Spader made it a point to soak in as much as she could. That dedicated effort made her a Lincoln Laureate finalist and, in the bigger picture, helped define Spader’s passion and goals.

“This whole experience has been big in finding myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Spader explained.

Discovery has been a theme all along. Spader broke out of her shell during five weeks of studying abroad in Spain. She recognized she had a knack for research. And, she confirmed that becoming a teacher will give her the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others the way she’s been supported by professors and faculty. She credits Assistant Professor Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg for being a role model and the “first person I really connected with.”

Stutenberg so valued Spader’s performance in Advanced Spanish Grammar and Hispanic Linguistics courses that she hired Spader as a paid research assistant for a linguistics development project. And that’s just one part of a busy college journey which also includes multiple appearances on the Dean’s List; volunteer work with children and the elderly; and membership in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Sigma Iota – International Foreign Language Honor Society.

“Helen Spader is a positive force on campus and in the community. As her academic record and resume reflect, Helen is a motivated student whose commitment to scholarship and service extend beyond the classroom, benefitting the campus and the community,” Stutenberg wrote in her nominating letter for Spader.

With graduation approaching, Spader knows it’s natural to reflect on her time as a Huskie.

“What I love about NIU is … it brings together all walks of life,” she explained. “It feels like we all belong.”

Spader is currently student teaching as she looks to pin down where her career in professional education will take her for the upcoming school year. The future holds new possibilities for her as she works to motivate high school students to find their passion and make a difference the way she has.

“I’m really excited to see what I can do in my next chapter,” she said.

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