Doctoral learner is candidate for busiest schedule
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Tracie Happel teaches second grade in La Crosse, Wis., is mother to three teenagers, including an exchange student, and is working on her doctoral degree from Grand Canyon University.
Oh by the way, she also is running for the Wisconsin State Assembly. And you thought you were busy.
“My husband (Carl) has a saying: ‘Do what you’re doing when you’re doing it,’” she said. “So that’s what I try to do.”
Happel was unopposed in the recent Republican primary and is challenging incumbent Steve Doyle in the Nov. 4 election. Her passion for politics grew when she became disenchanted with the state of education and, by extension, how the political system treats it and other budgetary concerns.
“It’s actually kind of exciting,” she said. “I’ve gotten to meet some really neat people from around here.”
Happel estimates that she spends 2-3 hours a day campaigning — all in the evening and on weekends because of her daytime job responsibilities.
“My focus is my job and my doctorate,” she said, “and then campaigning comes next.”
Happel is in her sixth year as an elementary school teacher after 16 years as an instructor of special-needs children with hearing deficits, which she was inspired to pursue after she met, as a youngster, a deaf girl in her neighborhood.
“We were in the only two houses on the block — it was a new housing development,” Happel said. “To communicate, we wrote in the dirt, and she even taught me some sign language.”
Today, Happel is fluent in sign language after getting her master’s degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has a bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
She discovered GCU through Mind Streams, which connects online students with schools across the country. Her GCU degree program is Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership, and her eventual goal is to run a conservative think tank.
“I just love to learn,” she said. “Holding a degree is prestigious and exciting.”
She does not, however, love Midwest weather and has been more than happy to come to Phoenix for GCU residencies.
“I hate winter,” she said. “I like Phoenix because it has two temperatures, too hot and kind of hot.”
Just as her life has two work modes, too busy and kind of busy. After all, some like it hot.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected].