By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Ever since she was in high school, Kim Grant has wanted to teach children.
She hoped to follow her parents’ lead because of a passion to be a teacher.
But Grant didn’t make teaching her profession until last year, more than 20 years after graduating high school.
“I have had a few different jobs throughout my adult life,” the first-year Parkland Elementary kindergarten teacher said. “But now I finally feel home. This is where I knew I was meant to be when I was 18. It just took me a really ‘wind-y’ path to get here.”
It hasn’t taken long for Grant to make a positive impression on her students and fellow educators. In her first year inside the classroom, Grant has been named Yukon Public Schools’ “Rookie Teacher of the Year.”
“It took all these other things happening in my life to get me here,” Grant said. “Now there is no doubt in my mind that I was meant to be a teacher. I was meant to be where I am today.
“Winning this award just solidifies it for me.”
The first-year teacher described herself as being “overwhelmed” and “shocked” upon learning about this high honor.
“I try to be innovative in the way I think,” she said. “I just want my students to feel loved. That’s my goal. I’m starting off at the beginning of their education careers.
“What I want from my kids is to love school, to love learning and to feel that they’re always accepted, loved and welcomed – no matter what their abilities are.”
After graduating from Mustang High School, Grant went to Oklahoma Christian University to study education but ended up changing her major to public relations.
“I knew that I wanted to be a teacher back from a pretty young age,” she said. “My mom’s a teacher and my dad spent some time as a teacher. I know that’s what I wanted to do.”
Teaching is a second career for Grant, who previously worked in physician recruitment for Mercy Hospital after being an office manager for a Mustang optometrist.
PURSUING HER PASSION
When Grant’s second son was born six years ago as a quadriplegic dependent on a ventilator, she had to stop working to take care of him. Grant then decided she wanted to return to school and study to become a teacher.
“I knew I wanted to go back to where my passion really was – and that was working with kids,” Grant said.
She enrolled in the online Western Governors University, which allowed her to keep working at night while doing her schoolwork and being with her medically complex child.
“Being able to go back to school and get my education degree is just one of the many blessings that’s come from his life,” Grant said. “Had I not been forced to slow down and forced to take a step back from my job, I don’t know if I would have had the doors open for me to go back to school and finish my education degree.”
She earned an elementary education degree in April 2019 and then set her sights on a school in Yukon to start that second career.
Grant’s older son (now 11) has attended YPS since pre-kindergarten at Parkland Elementary, where she was a member of the Parent-Teacher Organization. Grant fell in love with the school and that’s a big reason she wanted to teach there.
“I feel so blessed with the education my son has received through Yukon Public Schools,” she said.
Grant’s dream came through last spring when she began student-teaching at Parkland before being hired by then-Principal Lance Haggard to teach kindergarten. She earned her early childhood certification so she could start teaching her own kindergarten class.
The 2020-21 school year has been both a challenge and a gift for Yukon’s top “rookie” teacher.
“My class has a wide variety of academic abilities and behavioral challenges,” she said. “I’ve been really blessed, for my first year, to have such a great support system there who help step-by-step get through each challenge that I face.”
Grant’s fellow kindergarten teachers – along with other Parkland educators and YPS administrative personnel – have provided copious support during her career transition.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” she said. “When you first start and come into a new career, there’s only so much that going to school (college) can prepare you for.”
Winning the Rookie Teacher of the Year award has helped validate her decision to enter the teaching profession.
“This is where God’s leading me,” Grant said. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”