Feature: She’s the (Klee)man

Photo Credit: Angela Lai

Ms. Kleeman at her desk in the Career Center.

Alice Kleeman works as our dedicated and much appreciated college advisor, but M-A students may not realize at first that she is incredibly accomplished outside the Career Center as well.

Ms. Kleeman grew up with 3 siblings in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her dad wrote for the Minneapolis Tribune for 30 years. When she was 13, he became a Washington correspondent and they moved so that she went to high school just outside of D.C.

She was president of her school’s music honor society until one year the others impeached her. For the induction ceremony, “I would need to recite the oath and the new members would recite it after me. It was very serious and very formal, and had all sorts of language in it that was very stilted.”

“I started [reciting the oath] and I really tried but as I got a little deeper into it, I started to laugh and I couldn’t stop. I tried to pull myself together and after a minute or so I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my face.” A day later, the other members voted to remove her as president for cracking up at the ceremony.

In high school, she also played with a symphony orchestra as a piano soloist, taught 11 piano students, and taught herself to speak Portuguese. ”I think at my high school they were very surprised at all the colleges that I got into because I wasn’t at the top of the class and I didn’t have great SAT scores, but I think colleges saw that I had the potential to be a good student.”

One thing she remembers about her own college admission process is that after going on a trip to visit the colleges she was thinking of applying to, her first choice fell off the list and she ended up attending a college that she and her parents had visited simply because it was on the way.

She majored in Romance Languages and Literatures, and after college moved to California, where her 3 children, who are now all local teachers, attended M-A.

“A lot of M-A students have been taught by my older daughter, who teaches at Hillview, Ms. Keller, and now we have freshmen here who have been taught by my younger daughter, Mrs. Walton, who teaches at Encinal, and then soon we could have kids at M-A who were taught by my son, who teaches preschool.”

While they were students here, she became a volunteer at M-A and ran a lunchtime tutoring program. She enjoyed it “so much that instead of coming once a week, [she] started coming 3 times a week, and then 5 times a week,” and “just wanted to be here all the time” so she became a substitute teacher for 2 years, which she recalls as “maybe the most fun I’ve ever had.”

When the previous college advisor retired, she suggested that Ms. Kleeman apply for the job. “I applied and got the job and that was 19 years ago. And I still love it.”

“One cool thing that happened is that Cheryl Burke, from Dancing with the Stars, was someone I was pretty close to when she was here at M-A, and she came to me one day and said, ‘Everybody’s telling me that I really need to go to college but what I really want to do right now is dance.’” Ms. Kleeman advised Cheryl to pursue her passion for dance before college.

“So she went and told her family and they weren’t too happy with me, I’m sure, but when she got onto Dancing with the Stars her mom called me and said, ‘Cheryl just wants to thank you for the advice that you gave her and here’s this new success that she has found and we’re all really grateful for it.’”

In addition, Ms. Kleeman won the United States National Typing Award back in 2000 for a typing speed of 142 words per minute. She explains, ”I always worked through college and since then by typing. I have a second job still. I work transcribing tapes on nights and weekends so I’m a super fast typist. I don’t think it’s ideal to have to have two jobs but I know a lot of kids at M-A who have jobs after school, so I can relate to them because we both can’t just go home and relax, we go home and we work at another job.”

As for her job here, she says, ”It’s really important to find work that you love. Every day when I make a right turn into that M-A parking lot, I think, I am so happy to be here. Every day, I think that. There’s nothing that’s worth more than feeling like you come to work every day and you’re glad to be there.”