For education major, it’s a family affair

Katie Wempen, pictured with her grandparents, Richard and Rita Wempen, is a third-generation UNI education student.

KATIE WEMPEN/Courtesy Photo

Katie Wempen, pictured with her grandparents, Richard and Rita Wempen, is a third-generation UNI education student.


Education is big in Katie Wempen’s family.

Wempen, a senior Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) education major, is a third-generation UNI teaching student. Her grandfather, Richard Wempen, attended UNI in the 1950’s and became a high school science teacher in the Nashua-Plainfield school district. He was also a school counselor at North Iowa Area Community College. Her father, David Wempen, who attended UNI in 1991, went on to become a high school history teacher.

Wempen has other family members who graduated from UNI and pursued careers as teachers. Her mother, Molly Wempen (formerly McClientock), is a middle school English teacher, her cousin, Luke Wempen, is a high school business teacher and her aunt is an elementary school teacher.

When Wempen was picking which college to attend, UNI was at the top of her list. After hearing about the many family members who attended the school and how much love they had for it, Wempen knew she would be continuing that legacy.

Even though she followed in her parents’s and grandfather’s footsteps, she is doing it in a completely different way.

“I have found my own voice, even following after family tradition,” Wempen said. “ I definitely have made my own experiences here. And I think that’s been really valuable.”

Wempen will graduate this winter and will spend next semester student teaching in the Des Moines metro area.

Although Wempen is sad she’s leaving UNI, she is excited to start her career as a teacher.

“TESOL majors have a lot of options,” Wempen said. “But I think it would be really fun to teach middle school ESL (English as a second language).”

Wempen said she has had a wonderful time at UNI, not just by creating her own path, but by recognizing the past she now shares with her family members who went to UNI before her.

“I lived in Rider freshman year, the same floor my dad lived on. I think it’s really cool that I’m in the same buildings my grandpa and dad were in,” Wempen said.

Her family also bonds over UNI sports teams, specifically football. Wempen has lots of memories of watching Panther football with her grandpa prior to his passing last year.

Wempen will be trying to get the most out of her last semester at UNI.

“I know everyone says it, but it’s actually true,” she said. “Time goes by really fast, so you need to always make the most of it.”