Achieving latest goal reflects Summer Koltonski's ability to focus on setting and achieving goals
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to an error in both reporting and editing the version of this feature article had several mistakes. The biggest of which was the misspelling of Summer Koltonski's name. We appologize to her, her family and our readers — Mike Elwick, editor and publisher.
Summer Koltonski is goal driven.
The 2000 graduate of Shelbyville High School is making the leap from public school educator to college professor. Armed with a PhD in school psychology from Stephen F. Austin State University and years of experience in the education field Koltonski will be a full time professor at SFA starting this fall.
“I’m a goal setter and planner,” she said. “I have lists and daily goals.”
The daughter of Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison and John Harbison, Koltonski said she grew with a brother in a family environment where she was encouraged to do her best at everything with high expectations.
She’s been a teacher and educational diagnostician and said she loves working with children. She is married to John Koltonski, who she met when he was a senior and she a freshman at Shelbyville High School.
“I loved school and hope to be able to share that with others,” Koltonski said. Being educated in a small school allowed her exposure to a wide variety of activities from being in cross country and band to being a cheerleader and playing on the Shelbyville basketball and softball teams.
“I was always busy but I think that really helped me because I learned at a young age how to juggle it all and gained time management skills,” Koltonski said.
In recent weeks she has been settling into her new office on the SFA campus in Nacogdoches.
“I’ll be a professor in the special education department where I’ll be students who are going to be teachers how to teach students with special needs,” Koltonski said.
Working with other teachers has been the favorite part of her job, she said.
“Because if I can teach one teacher something then that affects a whole bunch of students,” Koltonski said. In her first semester as a college professor she will be teaching three courses and probably will have a course load of teaching four courses or more in future semesters.
While being new to the field as a full time professor, Koltonski is not new to teaching college students. She has been an adjunct professor the past two years teaching online courses.
Teaching online courses has been rewarding but she finds face-to-face teaching more rewarding. This fall she will be teaching junior and senior level students and expects to pick up instructing masters level students in the future.
“I’m really looking forward to doing research,” Koltonski said. One of her first areas of research will be in the use of emotional support animals in college.
”More students are requesting they want emotional support animals to live with them on campus,” she said. In conjunction with other SFA educators she will be researching the impact the animals have on the students’ lives and other details.
The research should help expand the area of study that the impact equine therapy has had for students with autism to see how other animals, which are more accessible to more people like dogs, could have on students with disabilities.
“With equine therapy the horses are usually trained and parents have to take the kids to where the horses are,” Koltonski said. “We want to explore what are the benefits of other normal everyday pets like dogs that could benefit kids.”
The study of the use of emotional support animals is a growing field with the potential to benefit many young people in a positive way, she said. The preliminary research will gather information on the benefits from the students’ perspective and perhaps look at helping establish guidelines that can be put into place for the use of emotional support animals.
“It’s a growing field where guidelines will help everybody, from pet owners, because they will know what to expect as far as what type of training the pet needs, to helping employers too,” Koltonski said.
Delving into the unknown area through research hopefully can help people to have fuller, more normal lives, she said. Koltonski expects the research could lead to presentations at educational conferences where the findings will be shared.