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From babysitting to the classroom, the teacher takes the less-traveled path
Family members cheered her on from their seats. Cecily Kimble, a 22nd UAFS graduate, smiled as she crossed the center stage of Stubblefield at her graduation ceremony in May. Feeling proud of her achievements and grateful for the support of her loved ones, she was very excited to see her 14-year-old son Rashaun in the hall.
“It was a big part of the decision to go to school — to show him that I don’t just expect things from him that I don’t expect from myself,” she said. “And I knew I wasn’t living up to my potential, so I decided to use this opportunity to show him what’s possible when you try your best.”
Kimble, a Fort Smith native, did well in high school and earned college credit by taking courses at WATC—West Arkansas Technical Center. Since 1998, the center has provided technical and vocational programs to high school students in 22 districts.
After graduating from Northside High School in 2006, Kimble enrolled in classes at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, but feeling she had no direction on what to study, she withdrew from the fall semester. Instead, she began working at Children’s Paradise preschool and childcare. After ten years of what was supposed to be a temporary job, the job awakened something inside Kimble, pushing her into a career as a teacher.
“I have always loved school and education, but only then was I able to see the relationship between children and education in growing up and changing lives,” she said.
Kimble joined UAFS as a non-traditional student pursuing a degree in education in 2018. Taking the time to decide where she wants to see her future helped her work hard when she returned to class.
“I lived a bit and figured out myself, so by the time I got back to school I was really focused because I knew what I wanted to do,” she said. “It was like I made a decision. I know where I’m going and all that, and I just hit hard.”
The single mother continued to work full-time at preschool until her third year and was grateful to her employer that his employer agreed to change her class schedule. At UAFS, she was able to connect with other non-traditional students who shared the same mindset and struggles as her.
“You find like-minded people who have the same goals as you and you have a lot in common,” she said. “You depend on each other and you all grow together and lift each other up.”
Getting into UAFS made sense because of its existing credit scores and the proximity of the campus. Despite the challenges of being a working mother and an unconventional college student, Kimble had a rewarding experience at UAFS, where she felt supported by the entire university and received a “first class education.”
“I was very surprised by the quality of education and educators they have,” she said.
Kimble has been fortunate to learn from various instructors who exemplify the type of teacher she wants to be. This fall, the recent graduate is putting some of these strategies into practice at Morrilton Intermediate School, where she teaches fourth grade math and science.
Nerves and excitement are always present in Kimble, who is looking forward to exploring a new city and making a career with her son as she travels this new path.
“Toward the end, I started daydreaming in lesson plans,” she said. “I’m all over the place with so many ideas.”
The first year of teaching is often the hardest, but Kimble welcomes the challenge. She is thrilled to watch her students grow and eager to test her new teaching skills. She credits UAFS with giving her the tools she needs to start a new career.
“I am very grateful for the experience that I had with UAFS, as well as for the educators and for the various opportunities that were provided to me,” she said. “Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I’m thrilled to be able to be part of the UAFS legacy.”