Kim Le studies elementary education at the U of A and says teaching is like ‘hitting the jackpot.’
By Suzanne Rhodes
Special to Official Kids Mag
Have you ever had a rock star teacher? Someone who’s made a huge impact on your life – who maybe even inspires you to become a teacher?
Kayla Kinsey was that sort of teacher for Kim Le. Kim is a freshman at the University of Arkansas majoring in elementary education. And Ms. Kinsey is her role model.
“I was held back in kindergarten, and when I started first grade, I was the only Asian student in my class [at Joe Mathias elementary in Rogers,” Kim said. “I lacked confidence. I felt like I wasn’t worthy enough. But then Ms. Kinsey just loved me and said I should be proud that I was Vietnamese.”
As Kim continued in school, other teachers encouraged her. “I was inspired by my teachers. They made a difference in my life because growing up, I had no one graduate in my family. No one went to college or even high school. And I want to change that. I want to change kids who feel that just because they’re poor doesn’t mean they can’t go to college.”
To pay for her education, Kim has an academic scholarship and a community scholarship called Early Riser. She also has some federal funding. On top of that, she works each afternoon at Happy Hollow elementary school in Fayetteville. “It’s a program through Boys and Girls Club where I have the opportunity to have kid experience and get to become a teacher.” Kim was recently promoted to be a co-leader, which means that when her supervisor isn’t there, she’s in charge of games, snacks and other activities.
“Each child is different – their personalities. As you learn about them, you understand what their learning styles are like, and that’s how you can help them academically and socially.” The children range in age from kindergarten to fourth grade.
Besides having fun at Happy Hollow, Kim loves serving in the children’s ministry at her church, Fayetteville Fellowship. “I get to work with kids – mainly kindergarteners. I help them grow and be wise.”
Children are special to Kim because “they are world changers. And they don’t give up. After college, I want to teach in Northwest Arkansas for sure. It’s home. And it’s a place I’m comfortable with – not too big, not too small. I see kids I know all the time at Walmart. They come up and just hug you and give you that warm feeling of love. Their smiles are really contagious and welcoming.”
Kim said that at first, she wanted to become a nurse. “I’d promised my mom that I would help support her and take care of her after college. But it’s something God didn’t want me to be. In my heart I felt that I needed to pour love on kids.”
When it comes to thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, Kim thinks children should consider becoming teachers. “You’re making a difference in kids’ lives. It’s that feeling like you’ve hit the jackpot when they’re successful. You know you’re doing something good. When they learn something, they’re like, ‘Hey, Miss Kim! I can spell happy now. And they spell it for you. And you’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness! I taught a kid ‘happy.’” She said the boy’s name is Oliver and that experiences like that make her want to continue on with teaching. “You don’t want to stop.”