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Non-Traditional Student Finds Purpose in Classroom

When Sarah Chumley returned to the University of Kentucky College of Education after years in the workforce, she saw the opportunity to complete her college degree in a new light.

“I knew what it took to be successful – hard work, organization, being prepared – and I frankly didn’t have any time to waste,” she said.

Today, she is wrapping up her first year as a second grade teacher at Booker T. Washington Primary Academy in Lexington.

“My first year has been challenging, but I received all the tools I needed to come in prepared,” she said. “I spent a lot of time focusing on classroom management, procedures, and rules, since these things are foundational and mandatory for success. I also learned the importance of over-planning, and rolling with the punches when things get out of whack.”

While at UK from 1993 to 1995, Chumley was faced with challenges, including giving birth to her son and economic pressures after a scholarship’s funding was cut. She got a job the summer after her sophomore year and decided to stay in the position rather than return to school.

“When my building closed due to the economic downturn in March 2010, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to return to UK and finish earning my Elementary Education degree,” Chumley said. “I returned in Fall 2010 and graduated in December 2012. I can say without a doubt my time back at UK was a much better and fulfilling experience.”

During that time Chumley served as an ambassador for the College of Education.

“I enjoyed getting out and meeting the alumni and helping with various events,” she said. “I also knew it was a great opportunity to show the diversity of UK and the College of Education — an older, non-traditional African American student, something alumni and other persons may not see as often as they should.”

When asked if she would recommend her profession to others considering studying as a non-traditional student, Chumley said to go for it – as long as that person has a passion and patience for children and teaching.

A typical day for Chumley at Booker T. Washington begins at 6:30 a.m. It includes not just teaching, but also compiling data, preparing RTI (response to intervention), organizing and being in contact with staff and parents.

“I love the relationships that I am building with my teammates and staff because no one can do this alone,” she said. “I enjoy the stories and love that I receive from my students, and seeing the growth and maturity from each of them lets me know that this is indeed my calling. I am purposed and designed to be a creator and molder of children, preparing them to be successful students and citizens.”