Balancing a checkbook is a learned skill. Preparing a healthy meal, managing healthy relationships, parenting, and making informed consumer decisions are, too. Many people aren’t aware that these skills are taught in school as well as on the home front.
That’s where Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) comes in: FCS classes teach life skills during the formative middle school and high school years. And those classes need teachers, which is Debbie Handy’s job—to teach the teachers. Handy oversees Washington State University’s FCS education program, advising and teaching WSU students who become teachers.
WSU’s program is part of the Department of Human Development.
Late last year, Handy was selected as the first ever Washington Family and Consumer Sciences Education Teacher Educator of the Year at the Family and Consumer Sciences Annual Conference.
“The life skills we teach are things students will use every day,” she said. “It’s inspiring to be part of that, and help train future generations of teachers.”
Handy was drawn to the field after earning a degree in Home Economics Education, now FCS Education, and teaching junior high and high school in her native Wisconsin for a few years. She later moved to Washington and earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from WSU and found she wanted to help teach future teachers.
“Debbie has positively affected thousands of high school students across Washington, and her students are well-prepared for student teaching,” said Kathi Hendrix, a retired CFS teacher at Selah High School and executive director of Washington Family and Consumer Sciences Educators. She is an excellent teacher. Her students create a bond with her that lasts throughout their career.”
Handy collaborates with the WSU College of Education to make sure her students have all the necessary coursework and training to be fully certified to teach when they leave WSU.
In addition to her work teaching and advising WSU students, Handy serves as the state Executive Director for Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America. She helped even more high school students in this role, Hendrix said.
“Every time a student does an individual or group project in FCCLA, the individual, family or community is improved,” Hendrix said. “Students learn leadership skills, do something for someone else, and learn what it means to be involved in their community.”