Emma Kruger reached for her phone and read a text from her student’s mother: “He said, ‘home!’ And this is the first time he has been able to acknowledge home, ever in his life.” This is like many of the text messages that Kruger receives as a speech language pathologist.
“I have had preschool students who, when I started seeing them, could only say five words because of the significant speech disorder that they had,” Kruger said. As time went on, she received many grateful texts from the parents and caretakers of students who had learned to say “home” and many other significant words.
Kruger finds it most rewarding when students can participate in ways they could not do before. “When they initiate the communication or they participate in a learning situation or activity, that is a pay off for me, because I wasn’t speaking for them. I wasn’t guessing what they were thinking or what they needed; they actually told me,” Kruger said.
Kruger was born and grew up in England, where she received a BA in international business from the University of Central England (UCE) in Birmingham. She first travelled to the United States when she served an LDS mission in Utah, Salt Lake City South. However, her American experience did not end at this point.
After her mission, Kruger decided to change her career path and study communication disorders. She decided to come back to the United States to get her master’s in communication disorders but soon realized that her undergraduate work in business would not qualify her to enter this kind of program.
Kruger went to the University of Utah to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science. With this second bachelor’s degree, she was accepted and in 2010 completed her master’s degree in the Department of Communication Disorders at BYU.
“I studied with a small well-knit cohort of nine students,” Kruger said. “I had great internships through the program, and I felt like BYU really cared about my success. It provided me a great background to keep learning.”
Kruger’s higher education enabled her to find a job in the Davis School District in Utah shortly after graduation, where today she works as a speech language pathologist serving two schools within the district. She teaches at one elementary school and in the post high transition program, with students from ages 18 to 22 who have special challenges and various learning delays.
The transition program helps students transition from school to independent living and potential employment. Skills taught in this program will allow these students to become more independent, and many will be able secure a job. Kruger works to help all of her students communicate effectively. “[Speaking] is something we take for granted all the time with people we meet—they just say what they want. But . . . a significant number of students do not have that ability without help, ” Kruger said.
Kruger said that her students are the most enjoyable part of her career. “I literally feel the most alive when I am teaching,” Kruger said. “Nothing beats . . . what I call ‘moments of therapy greatness’ when you have this synergy with the students. You know they are with you: watching, following, and engaging. Seeing students being engaged is one of the most thrilling things because you know if they are engaged, they are learning.”
Kruger offers this advice for those who are interested in a career in education: “If there is a part of you that becomes alive in the dynamic of teaching, then education is your field, where you have the opportunity to influence so many people.” In her career, Emma has found many opportunities to touch lives as she helps children and young adults communicate.