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News | Health Education and Human Sciences | AlumniJanuary 27, 2023

From Childcare to the Classroom, Teacher Takes Road Less Traveled

Written By: Antoinette Grajeda

With family members cheering her on from their seats, Cecily Kimble, UAFS class of ‘22, was all smiles as she crossed the Stubblefield Center stage at May’s graduation ceremony. Feeling proud of her accomplishment and appreciative of her loved ones’ support, she was most excited to see her 14-year-old son, Rashaun, in the audience.

“That was a big part of the decision of going to school – to show him that I don’t just expect from him things that I wouldn’t expect from myself,” she said. “And I knew I wasn’t living to my potential, so I decided to use this opportunity to show him what is possible when you try your best.”

A Fort Smith native, Kimble did well in high school and earned college credit by taking courses at WATC — Western Arkansas Technical Center. Since 1998, the center has provided technical and career programming to high school students in 22 districts. 

After graduating from Northside High School in 2006, Kimble enrolled in classes at University of Arkansas Fort Smith, but, feeling like she had no direction about what to study, she withdrew from the fall semester. Instead, she started working at Children’s Paradise Preschool and Childcare. Ten years into what was supposed to be a temporary job, the work sparked something inside Kimble, pointing her toward a career as a teacher. 

“I’ve always liked school and education, but it wasn’t until then that I was able to see the correlation between children and education in growing lives and making a difference,” she said.

Kimble joined UAFS as a nontraditional student pursuing a degree in education in 2018. Taking the time to decide what she wanted her future to look like helped her commit to working hard when she returned to the classroom.

“I lived a little and figured out myself, so by the time I did go back to school, I was really focused because I knew what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was like my mind is made up. I know where I’m going and all of that, and I just hit it hard.”

The single mom continued to work full-time at the preschool until her third year of studies and was grateful her employer was willing to work around her class schedule. At UAFS, she was able to connect with other nontraditional 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 y’all grow together and lift each other up.”

Enrolling at UAFS made sense because of her existing class credits and the campus’ proximity. Despite the challenges of being a working mother and a nontraditional 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 really surprised with the quality of education and educators they have,” she said.

Kimble felt lucky to learn from a variety of instructors who exemplified the type of teacher she wants to be. The recent grad is putting some of those strategies into practice this fall at Morrilton Intermediate School where she’s teaching fourth-grade math and science.

Nerves and excitement are ever present for Kimble, who is looking forward to exploring a new city and career with her son as she travels along this new path.

“Towards the end, I started dreaming in lesson plans,” she said. “I am all over the place with so many ideas.”

The first year of teaching is often the hardest, but Kimble welcomes the challenge. She is excited to watch her students’ growth and eager to put her new teaching skills to the test. She credits UAFS with giving her the tools she needed to start a new career.

“I’m really grateful to have had the experiences that I’ve had with UAFS as far as the educators, as far as the different opportunities that were given to me,” she said. “Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I’m really glad that I was just able to be a part of UAFS’s legacy.”