Kristin knew all along that she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Her mother, whom she considers her hero, was a teacher and Kristin says, “[my mom’s] passion overflowed to me.” As an educator, Kristin’s main goal was to instill positive character traits within each child. However, during her twenty year teaching career, Kristin saw a shift in family values and school values, coupled with an increase in problems, such as bullying. Events such as the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act and the tragic Columbine shooting disturbed Kristin, and in her last five years as a teacher, she knew she had to do something. She believes, “the number one way to prevent bullying is to teach empathy.”
With her mom’s help, Kristin began to research character education with an emphasis on empathy. It is obvious almost every child loves puppies and kittens, and Kristin felt strongly that if a child could learn to empathize with an animal, they could do the same with people. She began researching Humane Societies across the nation, to study their methods of educating kindness to animals. And as simple as it seems, the remarkable connection between people and animals is what led Kristin to her ingenious idea of Two by Two Character Development.
Collaborating with national experts in character education was the turning point for the success of Two by Two. By 2005, when Two By Two was made an official 501c3 nonprofit organization, Kristin had a whole team of Dubuque teachers by her side. Two by Two’s staple program teaches children how to be kind, respectful, responsible, and empathetic by caring for a stuffed pet. The programs don’t just teach character education separate from academics—the two are eloquently woven together, so that math and reading are right beside character enrichment. Two by Two now also offers Character Camp as well as resources and classes for teachers, so they can implement these concepts daily into their classrooms.