Allen College

Caitlin Konopek
Allen College Class of 2019 – Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Employment History

I am a Registered Occupational Therapist at Easterseals Joliet Region in Joliet, IL. We are contracted through a local school district during the school year and service children in our pediatric clinic over the summer. This was my first job post-graduation from Allen College, and I have been working here for 10 months so far!

What led you to pursue your education at Allen College?

I grew up in Illinois, and after attending college in Dubuque, IA I told myself I was not going to stay in Iowa. Funny enough, I ended up even further into Iowa! Growing up, I’ve always attended smaller schools, so I was really drawn to a smaller school and class sizes that Allen had to offer. I really enjoy this since it allows for more hands-on support and instruction with staff and peers.

Any accomplishments, awards, or proud moments?

Recently, I found out one of the self-contained multi-needs classrooms I service and work very closely with was awarded the McLean-Yoder Award for Professional Excellence, through the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities. The award is also recognized by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). This award is intended to honor a team that exemplifies high quality professional services to individuals with severe disabilities. The team that I am a part of includes the following members: the classroom teacher, the Speech-Language Pathologist, myself (Occupational Therapist), the Physical Therapist, the Paraprofessionals in the classroom, the Adapted PE teacher, and the Assistive Technology Specialist. The team and I work very closely together and collaborate to functionally support and meet the needs of the students in this program with various conditions and disabilities. Some of these conditions include: Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Down’s Syndrome, among others.

How did Allen College help prepare you for where you are now?

The foundational pediatric and school-based courses at Allen College provided me with the pertinent information needed to begin my career as a pediatric school-based occupational therapist. Being a school-based therapist can be a very hectic and fast paced setting. The knowledge and experience I gained throughout my instruction at Allen, as well as through my fieldwork experiences, prepared me to be able to handle anything that came my way, from assistive technology to adapting materials to meet my student’s needs. I also feel like the program prepared me well to “think like an OT.” Now I constantly find myself “thinking like an OT” even outside of work!

What led you to your exact career path?

I don’t think there was a particular instance that led me down the path to be an OT. I always had a passion for helping others and I was also intrigued with my Kinesiology classes during my undergraduate program at Loras College. I had initially thought about pursuing a career in physical therapy or athletic training. However, it wasn’t until I had the ability to work in a pediatric therapy clinic while at Loras that I was truly able to see all that a career in occupational therapy had to offer. I loved how holistic and client-centered this profession is! The more I was able to observe OT’s working with patients, the more I knew that this was the career for me!

What piece of advice would you give to current Allen students?

Even though it feels like you are learning so much right now, keep pushing yourself to learn even after you graduate! I still feel like there is so much I don’t know and so much more I want to learn! In just 10 short months of practice, I have gained so much knowledge that I can carry over to help my patients reach their goals. Each day is a learning experience in itself. I encourage you to take every opportunity you can to stay up to date on best practices to help support your patients!