HHS Distinguished Service Award recipient shapes students into compassionate citizens

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Brenda Osman

Brenda OsmanPhoto provided

Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) alumna Brenda Osman always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As early as kindergarten, she had a classroom set up in her basement, where she taught her dolls and stuffed animals and even typed up her own worksheets on her plastic typewriter. With her strong involvement in leadership- and family and consumer sciences-related projects in 4-H, becoming a family and consumer sciences teacher was a natural fit.

Now in her 30th year of teaching in Dearborn County, Indiana, Osman is being recognized with the Purdue HHS 2022 Distinguished Service Award for her leadership and significant contributions in East Central High School’s family and consumer sciences program, as she shapes the lives of her students and encourages them to give back to their community.

“I loved my experiences at Purdue, and I learned a lot there,” Osman said. “I appreciate that the college is recognizing me. It taught me the skills that I needed to come back to southeastern Indiana and be a family and consumer sciences teacher and have a successful career.”

When Osman was a student at Purdue in what is now the family and consumer sciences education program, she spent much of her time at So-Fro Fabrics, a local fabric store, where she worked full-time, noting that her coworkers became like a second family to her. She was also involved in the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and served as president of Purdue’s chapter. If she wasn’t there, she was often hanging out in Stone Hall or South Campus Courts.

After graduating in 1992, Osman moved back to Dearborn County, where she taught at another high school for four years before returning to her alma mater, East Central High School. She has been there ever since.

Osman poses with FCCLA students

Osman (left) poses with students in East Central High School’s FCCLA chapter.Photo provided

In addition to teaching family and consumer sciences courses at East Central High School, Osman also leads the school’s very active Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter. Under Osman’s direction, the organization does a variety of community service activities each year, including carving pumpkins with residents at the local nursing home, hosting the Snowflake Dance for individuals in the community who have disabilities, sponsoring an “Eat Dinner with Your Family Night” to help students and parents spend time together and become acquainted with FCCLA, and more.

“In family and consumer sciences, yes, we’re trying to produce a solid student, but it is important that we’re producing a solid citizen, someone who’s going to make a difference in the lives of others, who’s going to be able to provide for their family and also has the skills necessary to live a productive life and be happy,” Osman said.

Osman’s most recent endeavor with FCCLA is to reconnect with past members, dating back to as early as 1948, and gathering them together for an alumni dinner. While some of the organization’s outreach ideas come from brainstorming, Osman credits the students for coming up with many of the ideas, noting that it’s touching to see the compassion for service in each of her students.

Throughout her career, Osman has traveled with students to FCCLA’s national convention and prepared them to deliver polished speeches and projects, helped them build their leadership skills, and guided them toward successful careers. For Osman, success is measured not by wealth but by happiness and fulfillment, and she has played a role in preparing a variety of successful individuals, from nurses to teachers, doulas to clothing designers, neonatologists to stay-at-home parents.

“The kids know I’m proud of them, but they don’t understand how impactful that is as an educator to see them fulfill their life goals,” Osman said.

While Osman has experienced success as a family and consumer sciences teacher and has moved on to teaching many of her former students’ children, she said it’s important that people understand that she’s a product of the community she’s giving back to, and she values instilling a helping, generous mindset in her students.

“To have those impacts on students, I just feel like that’s pretty amazing,” Osman said. “You’re planting seeds every time you have conversations.”