Crystal Altstaetter’s career as an ardent advocate for student activities at The Ohio State University at Lima started off with something of a wobble, quickly followed by a crunch.
An ungrateful mechanical pumpkin she had advocated to bring to an autumn event her first semester on campus pitched her to the ground, ripping up her ACL and meniscus. During her recovery, she started her job in student activities and it transformed her.
"I wasn't working there at the time of the pumpkin incident, but they gave me a job and were really flexible with me not being able to do everything," Altstaetter said. “I really got into the business side, more like making all the things and the connections. I really fell in love with doing all that.”
Through her work in student activities and with the student-led Campus Activities Board, Altstaetter had the opportunity to get involved, collaborate and contribute. She knew what a good student life experience could do for a college student so she was determined to give that to others, especially when a pandemic made it increasingly difficult for students to bond in traditional ways.
"The friendships I have made through involvement on campus completely changed who I am, my confidence. I have become a leader," she said. "Getting involved changed everything."
When tough times came, Altstaetter put the confidence to work to bolster the student community. Throughout the lockdowns, remote learning and uncertainty, Altstaetter was the strong, steady force behind CAB, drawing students together when the world had other ideas.
“The groups were so different. As a shy person, I know what it’s like to not know anyone or have those connections. I was definitely worried so we did a lot of soft hang out kinds of things, like a study lounge online or cereal at midnight, just trying to accommodate different needs,” she said.
And when Altstaetter’s own world shifted on its axis, the people of campus were there to hold her up until she could find her footing. It was the connections she made and the community she has built on campus that pulled her through some of the toughest times of her life. She lost both her parents while a student.
“The support here is like being in my hometown,” she said. “I feel at home here. It’s just a huge support system. Everyone has been just incredible.”
She will take the life experiences and everything she has learned in the classrooms and in student life forward into her own classroom as an elementary teacher.
“Having those experiences just makes those connections with my students more meaningful,” Altstaetter said. “I also love the fun, engaging things we do. I don’t want to do boring things in the classroom and the kids don’t want to either.”
She nearly let the fears of the hard parts of teaching steer her away from her lifelong dream, choosing to start at another area school in a field that looked more lucrative and a little safer. She was miserable. The highly affordable and easily accessible option that Ohio State Lima offered with its early childhood education program called to her and she went back to her first love and has never looked back. The robust student teaching experience at Ohio State Lima cemented her decision.
“Just seeing and meeting different kinds of of kids and working with different age ranges really solidified that I think I’m pretty good at this, I can do this,” she said.
The dedication and drive shown out clearly at the 2023 Academic Award Ceremony. Altstaetter took home the education department award honoring the top future teacher of the year. She was also named the Violet I. Meek Student Leader for the year.
Most years, those two awards alone would be a standout way to end an undergraduate career, but Altstaetter wasn’t quite done. One day before commencement, she married her high school and college sweetheart. The now two-teacher, two-Buckeye family is off to start the next leg of their adventure.