Making clothes and a love for Auburn University are both in Karla Teel’s blood.
Her love for Auburn began in infancy when her grandmother whispered “War Eagle” over her crib. But Teel was first inspired to pursue her lifelong passion to create clothing on what she calls “the more conservative side of fashion” when Vanity Fair sponsored students to come tour Auburn University for E-Day.
Teel was also inspired to follow in the footsteps of two strong women in the fashion industry: her grandmothers.
“Both of my grandmothers were in the business as you say,” Teel said. “My mom’s mother was a home economics teacher and my dad’s mother was a sewing trainer for Vanity Fair Mills in Monroeville.”
After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in textile engineering and a minor in apparel production management, Teel began attending schools around the Southeast to gain a higher level education.
She eventually came back to Auburn, and when she was offered the job of her dreams, teaching at Auburn, she accepted the position on the spot and never looked back.
“Every day I come to school wanting to be here with a smile on my face knowing that this is a job that I love,” Teel said. “When you go to work every day knowing that it is something you love to do, you never work a day in your life.”
Just as Teel’s dream of teaching at Auburn University was unfolding, she was soon diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Right after I got here in 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Teel said. “I was diagnosed again in 2009, and, since then, I’ve had multiple reconstructive surgeries. It’s now been 24 surgeries over the last 12 years. But I have a strong faith and it is what it is. After all I have been through, a good attitude is all I will accept to have.”
Teel said she could not have made it through the hard times without the faculty in the consumer and design sciences department.
“Everyone has been so gracious and you don’t find that every day in other departments,” Teel said. “I am totally blessed to have the people around me that are here. It’s hard for me to leave my students like that, and it makes me feel bad.”
The students that Teel teaches are what she finds to be the root of her passion. From watching her students in their beginning design course to seeing their final capstone presentation walk down a runway with a look of joy on their face, that is where Teel’s joy lies.
She said she seeks to make students feel as though they are not just a number.
From taking students to counseling if they need it or driving them to the hospital, Teel does everything in her power to be there for her students.
“This is exactly where God has put me so, I can have an influence on a mainly female population because I remember how hard it was being in school at this age for females,” Teel said. “Just being able to be there for them and help them through the problems of the world, which are way worse than when I was in college, is what I try to do.”