August

Following the Evidence

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When Freddie Haumesser ’09 was named a prestigious Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow, she didn’t expect to be the one learning lessons she would never forget.

One of the things you learn about working in forensic science is that dead people don’t talk back, but what they leave behind does.

It’s a lesson “Freddie” (Cope) Haumesser ’09 was well versed in as a forensic scientist at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. As a member of the state’s official crime lab she regularly used cutting-edge technology to process bodily fluids and analyze DNA evidence to solve law enforcement cases and bring criminals to justice.

While that role kept Haumesser humming along in a field that was challenging, it didn’t address the yearnings she had years earlier when she was a budding young college co-ed on Alvernia’s campus. “I always wanted to be a teacher, but my family pushed me to pursue science because teaching doesn’t usually pay as well,” she said. “In my heart, I always wanted to be more involved with the community and young people.”

Haumesser quoteUnderstanding her work with forensic evidence was never going to provide that, she put the process in motion to become a switch hitter, swapping time-tested expertise in forensic science for a vision to teach young people in the classroom. To help make her dream come true, she applied for a Woodrow Wilson Ohio Teaching Fellowship.

The highly competitive fellowship seeks to attract talented, committed individuals with backgrounds in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — into teaching at high-need Ohio secondary schools.

It proved to be a wise move. Haumesser became one of 79 candidates to win the prestigious fellowship and a $30,000 stipend to help her complete a master’s degree program and earn a teaching license. No novice to the college environment, she already had three degrees in hand: an associates degree in general studies from Reading Area Community College, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry/forensic science from Alvernia (where Dr. Rosemarie Chinni, chair of the mathematics and science department, mentored her) and a master’s degree in forensic science from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.

Thanks to the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, she is on her way to earn a second master’s degree, this time in secondary education from the University of Akron. As part of the Wilson Fellowship, she is participating in a yearlong experience teaching eighth-grade mathematics in an urban environment. It’s an experience that is already paying the type of dividends that Haumesser had hoped, recalling a recent conversation she had with a student.

“Mrs. H.,” asked one of her students, “Can we stay and do more math problems?” For an eighth-grade student to want to do math over chatting in the hall was nothing short of amazing to Haumesser, 29.

“That’s what the fellowship taught us; how to engage the student,” Haumesser said.

Haumesser, who also previously worked as a chemist at Lancaster Labs, Lancaster, Pa., is applying for a job at a high-needs school to complete her degree requirement. She loves teaching math, but is qualified to teach chemistry and forensics, sometimes offered as an elective, she said. In addition, she is being trained in subjects important to her students and their lives, such as diversity and discrimination.

When the former Fredericka Cope first went to Ohio, she knew no one. She signed up for a Habitat for Humanity event, an activity that drew on her Alvernia community service experience, where she met her future husband, Greg Haumesser. Together, they have a son, Cole.

If she and her young family hadn’t settled in Brunswick, Ohio, the Reading School District would be exactly the kind of school she would hope to teach in. “The influence I have with eighth-grade students is amazing,” Haumesser said. “The thing is some people don’t want to work in high-need schools, but the impact you can have on students is life changing.”

And while her current “subjects” do talk back (a clear contrast to her previous job), for this forensic scientist turned teacher, they are words to live for!

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