Before Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Assistant Online program (OTA-Online) Sandra Kletti, OTD, MEd, OTR/L joined the St. Catherine University faculty, she worked as a school-based occupational therapist (OT) for over 35 years. “I worked with children between the ages of 3 and 21, and it was my role to support children’s educational areas of need and promote occupation in all areas of a child’s school routine,” says Kletti. “Every day that I worked with children as a school-based OT was unique, rewarding, and truly enjoyable.”
After years of clinical experience, she felt it was the right time to share her professional knowledge with future OT and OTA professionals in an academic setting. Kletti recalls, “I’ve always wanted to be a part of higher education. Throughout my career as an occupational therapist, I frequently accepted opportunities to present at conferences and seminars as well as to work with OT students as a fieldwork educator, simply because I loved teaching others.”
When Kletti was hired to be an assistant professor in St. Kate’s OTA-Online program, it felt like the perfect fit. She deeply respected St. Kate’s values and mission to educate women to lead and influence and saw these values reflected in the University’s OTA-Online program. “The students in our OTA program are introduced to the Catholic Social Teaching principles that include the American Occupational Therapy Core Values and Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics. We focus student learning on the principles of respecting human dignity, valuing others, and promoting ethical, spiritual, occupational, and social justice,” says Kletti.
As an assistant professor for the St. Kate’s OTA-Online program, Kletti gets to share her passion for the profession of occupational therapy everyday with her students. “I remember being a student in OT school and falling in love with the profession. I could not wait to practice what I was learning and to help make a difference in the lives of my future clients. I want my students to feel the same way. I want them to be excited to work hard and reach their dreams of becoming an OTA,” she says.
Since St. Kate’s OTA program is primarily online and offers hands-on skills labs in California, Minnesota, Virginia, and Texas, Kletti has the opportunity to teach her chosen profession to a diverse student population across the country. As she reflects, “Some students just graduated high school and some students are returning to college for a second or third degree. They appreciate having flexibility with their lifestyles.”
Kletti also shares her expertise in academic publications. Throughout her years working as a school-based OT, she developed a strong interest in the area of mental health. She was actively involved in providing interventions to promote social-emotional skills and positive mental health among young children. By utilizing her knowledge and professional experience, Kletti co-authored a chapter titled, “Pediatric Mental Health” in the book, “Ways of Living: Intervention Strategies to Enable Participation” with St. Kate’s Associate Professor and Interim Graduate OT Program Director Paula Rabaey ’92, PhD, OTR/L. Published by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “This book is valuable to students, practitioners, and researchers who need current information on the breadth of occupational therapy's services,” says the AOTA website.
As Kletti continues her work as an assistant professor for St. Kate’s OTA-Online program, she feels inspired every day. “St. Kate’s OTA program is a perfect fit for me. In line with the University’s mission, our OTA program prepares students to lead and influence in the profession of occupational therapy.”