Recent Newman University elementary education graduate Kimberly Giesen shares a similar experience with many students who choose to return to college later in life.
Their stories follow similar timelines — graduate high school, maybe start a college path, begin a job in the workforce and even start a family.
But like many college-goers taking the nontraditional path, Giesen said she felt something was missing from her life. Her first college attempt was cut short due to health reasons and shortly after that, she and her husband were starting a family.
Several years and two children later, Giesen landed a paraeducator position for USD 259 in Wichita, Kansas. That’s where her love for teaching was born.
A Newman University representative was visiting an in-service Giesen attended and explained the university’s program. She didn’t think much of it at first, she said. But after showing the paperwork to her husband and giving it some thought, she decided that was the missing piece in her life.
The following week, she said, she was “jumping in feet first,” adding that there were definitely some trials along the way.
Giesen and her husband have two children, one of whom has special needs. Working, attending classes and finding time to study was something she said was not easy, but worth it in the end.
She added having caring and understanding professors made difficult times a little easier.
“Near finals times, especially, I wasn’t home as much,” she explained. “I was a little grouchier, too, and both of my sons really absorbed that. My oldest son would stress out because he knew mom was stressed out. So when brother acts up and out, then that puts a ripple in the family. The younger brother is affected.
“Being a mother and wife, working full time and taking the courses came with some tough times. When my family needed me and I needed to step back and be with them, my professors were understanding.”
Because of her professors, the students in her cohort and other caring staff and faculty, Giesen said her Newman experience will live with her for years to come.
The program, she said, is what originally drew her in. But it didn’t take long for her to make connections and feel at home.
“Once I got to know this particular group of ladies that were in the same boat as I was — married, working full time, some had kids, all had a heart for God — I immediately bonded with these women. I found a community here that kept me here.
“When I was stressed or someone else was, we were here for each other. The feeling of inclusion I received from the professors, they knew everyone came from all different backgrounds. Doesn’t matter who you are, what religion, that feeling of acceptance was strong.”
Giesen said she feels prepared and ready to tackle her career after Newman. She said the level of experience and knowledge that the professors carried impressed her and helped her gain confidence in her new path.
“At Newman, the depth of knowledge that the professors have … they are just so thorough about covering what we will face. In all of our classes, we did a lot of role-playing and interactive lessons where we were in the role of the student. We had to figure out different ways to solve things.
“It wasn’t just sit down, listen to a lecturer, follow a PowerPoint and then take a test. It was interactive.”
Giesen said she is currently applying for teaching jobs, hoping to work for USD 259. Until a job comes her way, she is looking forward to having more time with her family.
“I missed out on a lot of talks with my sons in the evenings. I’m really looking forward to getting those back. Family life is so important to me.”
Excited to get into the classroom, Giesen added some thoughts on her teaching future.
“I can’t wait to get my own classroom with my own kids — and I’m so ready to start teaching, to get in there. I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m ready to get in there and start changing lives. I’m ready to meet all of these little kids God is going to bring my way.”