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Amy Van Fossen: Linking a Love for Health and Learning

Instructional Designer, Amy Van Fossen, MS Ed, designs NWCPHP's online modules and monthly Hot Topics slides. She incorporates her love for health and learning to life at and outside of work.
Amy Van Fossen: Linking a Love for Health and Learning

NWCPHP Instructional Designer Amy Van Fossen, MS Ed, with her husband, Mark Thibault

Instructional Designer, Amy Van Fossen, MS Ed, designs NWCPHP's online modules and monthly Hot Topics slides. She incorporates her love for health and learning to life at and outside of work.

July 2, 2014

Amy Van Fossen, MS Ed, is as they say, a "life-long learner." In both her personal and professional life, she continues to re-invent herself and tackle new challenges. It's part of her long history with learning.

"I was a first generation college student," said Amy, who holds an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Washington. "My dad grew up in an economically difficult environment, but he and my mom worked hard and stressed the importance of education to me and my siblings, and we all have comfortable lives as a result of going to college."

A few years out of college, Amy found herself working in patient accounts for a home health organization but wishing for more of a challenging, hands-on career. She decided to go back to school for her teaching certification and master's degree in Education. When it came time to put her learning into practice, Amy found work teaching English composition to adults, a role she had never previously considered. She has continued working as adjunct faculty at Olympic College for the last ten years.

"People come to college but don't always come with the skills they need," said Amy. "I thought I'd work in middle or high school education, but it turned out I really liked teaching adults. I'm very interested in helping adults be successful through education, and college, with its freedoms and opportunities is a great equalizer, as long as there's access to it for everyone."

As Amy began incorporating the computer more frequently into her teaching, she became excited about the possibilities of teaching with technology and eLearning. Around that time her only son headed off to study at the University of Washington.

"Before I got into teaching, I was working part-time but was focused a lot on being a mom. That has been my role for quite a bit, my other 'part-time' role," said Amy. "Having your child leave for college is a logical point to think about 'now what, what do I want to do?' I was ready for a change and new experiences. I enrolled in UW's eLearning Design and Development Certification program, and now I work as an Instructional Designer, which is great because it relates to the work and areas of interest I've been drawn to in the past."

At NWCPHP, Amy is responsible for designing online modules and monthly Hot Topics slides. The role allows her to connect her love of helping people—addressing social equity and health issues—with her passion for education and interest in new technologies.

Amy Van Fossen at Hurricane HillOutside of work, Amy loves to run, day hike, bike—anything that gets her moving outdoors—and doesn't involve the possibility of bears, which she is afraid of. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Amy loves to hike at nearby Olympic National Park. In 2011, she even set a goal to hike every week and ended up doing 50 day hikes that year—rain or shine. In 2004, she began competing in triathlons and has continued to participate even "completing one last year, very slowly."

"The first triathlon was ten years ago," said Amy. "Around that time I had done some 5K races, and somebody talked me into trying one. It's funny, because I was actually kind of lazy as a younger person. I remember running a couple times when I was in college, but I mostly made excuses. It's a big part of my life now and how I see myself: as a runner. It's how I've made a lot of my friends too; it's a good connector."

When she's not running around town, Amy loves to travel with her husband, Mark. She's been around Europe three times, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and all over the continental United States. Recently, she returned from a trip to Alaska.

She also loves to cook, in particular bread and "100 ingredient vegetarian recipes" where she can apply her skills as a retired vegan. She's planning to improve her pie-making this summer.

One thing you didn't know about Amy? "I've had a lot of random jobs," said Amy. "I've worked at a fabric store, in convenience stores, even at Northgate Mall in the information booth where I would make the closing announcement. I even worked for the IRS for a while taking calls from taxpayers. It was so stressful!"

Luckily this "life-long learner" has found her way to the perfect intersection of health and education.

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