Campus Community Profile: Missy Criss

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Name: Missy Criss, PT, GPT, GCS
Title: Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy
Date Joined Chatham: 2012 part-time, full time in 2015
Born & Raised: everywhere, I am a military brat
Interests: dance, food, travel, my kids!

Q: How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
A: I danced throughout my youth and was set on majoring in dance. My paretns were a little concerned because they did not want me to have to wait tables the rest of my life! My mom was mentioning her fears to a dance instructor and said that I excelled at science and math in school. That dance teacher was seeing a physical therapist at the time and suggested that I check it out. The rest is history! I was hooked.

Q: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
A: My first job ever? It was as a dance instructor assistant to young children. I learned that teaching is hard! I also learned that a job takes preparation, enthusiasm, a bit of showmanship to keep the interest of my students, and quick thinking because things do not always go as planned!

Q: What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?
A: I love our graduate students because they are learning what they want to do with their lives in a focused course of study. Every class builds on the next, and every class is meaningful to their journey to become a physical therapist. They have done some remarkable things, like start Go, Baby, Go and Graduates Go Green which tells me they have really taken to heart the need to serve others and be environmentally friendly – great Chatham values!

Q: What is your passion?
A: Working with older adults. I love what I do. I have been a PT for 22 years and I still love what I do! There is grit, determination, grace, and humor in those that have lived long lives. I consider it a blessing to work with them. I have learned so much from such a variety of great individuals (men who stormed the beach at Normandy, Holocaust survivors, a Tuskegee Airman, a member of the Band of Brothers, a German war bride, a Rockette, and a feisty roller derby queen to name a few). The most important thing I have learned from them is that death is a natural part of life. Our culture fears death and I have had so many tell me that “it’s okay, I’m good. I have lived a long life and I am okay with the end.” It’s a valuable lesson I hope I always remember.

Q: What one individual had the greatest impact on you and how?
A: I don’t know if I could pick one. My great-grandmother, Nanny, was the first “old” person I knew. She was kind and smiled a lot and thought her great-grandkids were the best. She always told me I could do whatever I put my mind to. My grandmother, Shirley, also had a huge impact on me. She rarely yelled, yet always got her point across. She worked until her late 80s, mainly because she would be bored if she didn’t work but also to support other family members in need. She was a selfless servant until the end and a grandmother to everyone – I will be lucky if I grow up like her!

Q: What one thing would your students be surprised to know about you?
A: I lost my first job as a PT. That’s a big reveal! My nursing home had been placed on probation by the state for nursing care violations 2 months after I started working there. So there were no admissions and work dwindled. Our company sent us to other nursing homes but there was not enough work to keep me and most of the other staff employed full time. As the new graduates, we were let go first. There were other issues at work as well, but I took the job because I needed one and not because it was a good fit for me. It was a hard lesson, but one that I appreciate now, as I had much beter ideas of what to ask on job interviews after that!

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? 
A: I still try to take a dance class here and there and I would love to have more time to do that! I love to bake with my daughters, and we all love to travel. Spending time with my husband and girls and especially watching them grow into young ladies that I enjoy being with on a different level are top of my list of fun things to do.