With over 19 years of teaching experience, Dr. Cristy Kessler has been motivating audiences of all ages with her message of determination, survival, faith, and hope. Cristy has a natural ability for speaking to large groups of people of all ages and a style of speaking that helps them feel like they’re sitting in her living room.
Cristy Kessler has been a role model for countless students from 5th grade through university whose lives she has touched as a social studies teacher, coach, and associate professor in education at the University of Hawaii. This, in spite of a lifetime of pain and a constant battle with health issues throughout her life.
A three-sport standout in high school, Cristy coached both soccer and basketball, including a five-year stint as coach for Tourney Sport USA in Hawaii. She earned her doctorate in educational leadership and innovation in 2003, and as part of her commitment to being the best teacher and role model she could be, she achieved certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), even though this certification is generally recognized as a program for K-12 teachers. Rarely has a university professor sought (or achieved) this recognition, but Cristy did exactly that in 2005, even as she was recovering from cancer surgery. In her role as an associate professor at the university, she has guided scores of teachers through successful achievement of NBPTS certification.
Plagued by constant pain and fatigue, Cristy was finally diagnosed in 2006 with a constellation of auto-immune diseases: scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, and vasculitis, any one of which is ultimately fatal. Following years of treatment for the symptoms of these disorders, it became clear that the only way to save her life was to somehow tackle the diseases themselves, not just the symptoms. Finding no promising treatment programs in the United States, and nothing that would be covered by her health insurance, Cristy traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011 for a life-saving stem-cell transplant at Anadolu Hospital, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University. Extensive fund-raising efforts by friends and family helped make this incredible journey a reality.
The transplant succeeded such that Cristy has a brand-new immune system and has resumed her work with university students and teachers. She continues to look for opportunities to inspire and encourage others through the story of her determination to live, even in the face of chronic pain and imminent death.