Emma Kitch grew up in a tiny western Kansas town where she learned the value of family, community and education. In high school, her teachers inspired her to attend college. At Kansas Wesleyan University, her professors gave her confidence, experience and resources. Today, Kitch is building on these lessons as a high school teacher in the diverse community of Johnson City.
“I grew up in Quinter, Kansas,” Kitch explains. “There were 21 students in my graduating class. The community was so supportive, and I was able to excel in school. I also developed confidence and skills with non-academic activities, like Scholar’s Bowl, band and drama, that I still use to this day.”
That confidence and the support she received from her hometown empowered Kitch to pursue a degree in history and education at KWU. The school’s warm sense of community felt like an extension of Quinter.
“I went to a small school and when I walked around the KWU campus I felt like I belonged,” Kitch explains. “When I started classes and met people, I knew I’d made the right decision. The professors and staff were always willing to help out with anything I needed.”
Fascinated by history, Kitch pursued a bachelor’s degree in history and initially thought of going into education simply as a way to earn a living. But as she progressed through college and began classroom observations, something clicked at a deeper level.
“I realized I wanted to be able to educate students and inspire them in the way that some of my high school teachers inspired me,” Kitch explains. “Without a few of my high school teachers, I never would have had to the confidence to go to college, let alone be a teacher.”
Kitch continues: “The KWU program was highly preparatory and gave me three things that I use every day: Confidence based on actual experience, a strong background working with students at different academic levels and great resources and teacher contacts that I can call on for advice when I need it.”
Kitch, like all Teacher Education students at KWU, spent at least 125 hours of observation and practicum in areas schools. That exposure to teaching in the field started with her first Teacher Education class.
Kitch seems to have truly found her calling. This fall, she entered her third year at Stanton County High School in Johnson City teaching world history, government and geography. She also worked on the school’s yearbook, coached the Forensics Team and co-directed the first full-length play the school has had in years.
In recent years, Johnson City has seen an influx of Mexican families, and the school population today is a vibrant mix of white and Latino students. Many of the parents do not speak English. Kitch believes educators have a unique role to play in the community to ensure students get every opportunity to learn English and understand that finishing high school is important for their future.
“I love learning about Mexican culture from my students,” Kitch says. “Some come to us and they don’t speak English at the beginning of the school year, but by the end, they’ve worked so hard that they are able to carry on conversations with us.”
Kitch concludes: “My students inspire me every day. It’s an honor to be here and pass along lessons I learned from my own teachers and KWU professors.”