Playing while creating a safe community: both can go together

Interview with Kiek Vellinga

Even for a wanderlusting and restless soul, having a safe haven is very important. Kiek Vellinga found this out during her first year of study at HKU’s Master of Education in Arts. And now she is doing just that: creating a safe community for the LHBTI+ at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Playing while creating a safe community: both can go together

Kiek: ‘I had completed Media Information and Communication at Amsterdam University and ended up in design afterwards. I was creating logos for beer brands, among others, but felt I had seen enough of it after three years. And so, I went traveling through south-east Asia for several months. When I returned, I had no job and no money, so out of necessity I became hostess at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital. Here I learned a lot and discovered how much I enjoy working with people.’

Suit and tie

Kiek then ended up in corporate recruitment, but the first experience wasn’t exactly a smooth start. ‘I truly hated it. Every day I had to dress in suit and tie, but I am not at all the type for pencil skirts and high heels. I was working with people, indeed, but it was a drag. Another recruitment agency gave me the chance to train young ICT applicants how to do job interviews. Here I discovered that I like teaching people something new, to teach classes. Eventually I was invited to a supporting role at Amsterdam University. I applied and felt so much at place that I immediately stayed. Over time, I got to do more teaching tasks. Becoming an actual teacher felt great and I seemed to have a talent for it. That was the moment when I realised what I had to do with my life.

A master next to a job

Everything now clicked for Kiek: her love for designing, working with people and teaching. ‘I gave classes in visual storytelling, worked with students and served as a teacher. However, Amsterdam University always encourages its teachers to obtain a master’s degree. After seven years, I knew that sooner or later I had to do so as well. Which master that would be, I wasn’t sure yet. First, I went on another journey, traveling through Central America with my wife.

Before we left, someone told me about the Master of Education in Arts at HKU. This triggered me and made me think: “this might be it for me.” I quickly did the admission and while we were travelling I heard I was accepted.’


Kiek initially had some trouble with the abstract approach of the master. ‘I am a typical academic student, one who needs module instructions and clear guidelines. Tell me what to do, and I will do it. Yet with this master, you have to come up with your own plan. You must ask yourself: “what goal will I set and how to reach it?”

Kiek was also regularly suprised. ‘A teacher can simply start playing cello right during class. That was so refreshing! There are also classes such as Ludo Didactics, that focus on game aspects, or Theatre Dialogue, where you form groups to find out together, through interaction, what intention you have for that day or moment. That was truly mind-blowing, because it reveals insights about what’s going on in your subconscious. That can be very valuable. It’s also directly applicable to my method of teaching.’

‘I have really been taken out of my comfort zone in the last year. It also made me ask myself: why am I actually sending so much information during my classes, while as a student I actually enjoy being active, to create and craft. Only one year into this master, I started teaching much more interactively. Less drilling the information down, and more focused on the student. The master in fact is a two-year period of free play. I want to gain from that.’


In 2018, Kiek also founded HvA Pride: the queer community for LHBTI+ students at the academy. Since then, HvA Pride has grown into the largest community of the academy. Kiek: ‘That’s great of course, but we wanted to take it one step further. We are also transforming the systems: educate people about inclusive certification and help people with changing their name when they are transitioning, for example. We also serve as a consultative body for the academy’s executive board.’

Kiek wasn’t willing to leave it at that. ‘I started wondering what else I could do to help the queer student. I wanted to actually contribute to the creation of a safe environment. At HKU, I felt that I was truly free to be myself. This also enabled me to create nice things. What I feel at HKU, is what I want my own students to feel as well. During my master I therefore created a game: Hendie. With this, teachers can learn how to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them and one/one’s. With a deck of cards and by telling stories, the player can learn how to use the correct pronouns. This can be played at any school. Recently I gave a workshop about inclusive language in which I used this game. It went really well and I noticed that the game is, indeed, ‘handy’.’