Why start with a picture of someone's back to the audience? Dive into the story of Kiki Coralles, a Learning Center student from 3rd to 8th grade (2007-2014), and you will soon glimpse a rare school culture captured in this photo.
Kiki began our interview process by emphasizing how many of her treasured childhood memories come from her Learning Center years. "For example, the year I was crowned queen of the annual Sweetheart Ball is one of the most special memories because it exemplifies the unity and loyalty we all had. We weren't just friends, we weren't just family, we were ONE. That night my friends and I all took turns wearing the crown throughout the night because in our minds we were all queens." Now that is a powerful way of thinking, one capable of transforming communities.
Initially learning proved challenging for Kiki. She gives full credit to "an amazing team of educators who worked incessantly to help me not only meet my goals but to exceed them. I went on to become Valedictorian of my 8th grade class."
"After graduating from TLC, I attended Murphy High School. As I entered my first year of high school, I wasn't sure what to expect. Coming from a school where the sense of community and family was so strong into an environment where I saw a new face every other hour was a difficult change. " Kiki recalled that she often reflected on her Learning Center years as she navigated the high school waters, always thankful for those early experiences that molded her into someone who could embrace change.
Kiki, working as a Teacher Assistant in 1st and 2nd grades, is one of three former students now employed at The Learning Center. She shared. "There were so many factors in my decision to apply for a position at my former school." From watching her mom and her mom's colleague Mrs. Stephanie Hopper in the classroom give their all into their students, Kiki had a desire to work in education and be the difference maker with young learners in the same way that these two career educators continue to be. "Being able to work as the assistant alongside exceptional teachers who hold high standards for all their students has been an honor and an all-around incredible experience."
"Prior to my employment at The Learning Center, I had been a stay at home mom for almost two years. With my son soon reaching the age of attending preschool, I immediately knew I needed to get him into TLC! Montessori Preschool." As his mom, Kiki felt it was her job to make sure she give her child the best education possible. She recognized the high expectations that started in preschool on this campus and became determined to secure a job at the school where she is intent on setting some high standards for herself as she gleans from and grows in the world of education.
"I definitely see my younger self in the students each and every day. Watching their eyes light up every time Ms. Emily breaks into song or Ms. Shelley comes walking through the door brings me an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. Also, when I was younger I was very shy and tried to avoid attention as much as possible." Kiki recognizes that she goes the extra mile to reach out to the shy students who so quickly remind her of her younger self. Her daily goal is to contribute to a safe and encouraging environment that allows each small voice to be heard.
"Above anything else, my ongoing life goal is be the best mother my child could ever have. I know if I can achieve being the best mother I can be to my child that I also have the ability to be the best for my little ones at school."
The Tuesday, November 23, 2021, blog captured a lifelong friendship formed between two Learning Center students, Hailey and Kiki. Enjoy this "throwback" picture.