Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, a modern twist on Kansas City office space. MECA Challenge and Startland News are both programs of the Kansas City Startup Foundation, though the content below was produced independently by Startland. For more information on the relationship, click here.
Classrooms can feel cold and chaotic for students and their teachers, Katie Kimbrell said, reflecting on the more than six years she spent at the front of such learning environments.
“I tried to do something that was totally impossible,” she said of the challenge educators face in molding students for the modern world using archaic teaching methods. Kimbrell argues for innovative ideation in Kansas City schools — an initiative she now leads as education director at the Kansas City Startup Foundation.
“It’s important for [students] to thrive, not just survive,” she added, in favor of a new era in education that better understands the needs of students in an evolving world. “For as many progressive things as we have happening [in Kansas City], we really aren’t progressive in education.”
Technology, real-world learning environments, design thinking, and exposure to entrepreneurial experiences are but a few of the building blocks that craft Kimbrell’s vision for progression in the modern classroom, she said.
“We’re not [currently] meeting students needs or meeting the needs of our society,” Kimbrell pondered aloud, adding that non-linear thinking could dramatically alter the way districts design their schools.
A driver of Kimbrell’s work in education redesign at the KCSF is MECA Challenge — a daylong innovation competition designed to expose students and teachers to entrepreneurial thinking, collaborations with Kansas City innovators, and real-world problem solving.
Click here to learn more about MECA challenge.
“[When I started teaching] I was totally in survival mode and was essentially teaching the way I had been told to,” she said, noting the contrast to MECA Challenge and her new effort pushing teachers — as well as students — to abandon their comfort zones. “I was valuing what I had been told was important … and it didn’t work. It didn’t meet the kids’ needs and it was stressful for them and stressful for me. Ultimately, I think I missed out on what [the students] really needed. I didn’t have the training or experience — or perspective, to know that yet.”
Startland News sat down with Kimbrell to learn more about her interests and worldview. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, which provides entrepreneurs and businesspeople a community and a workspace.
Hometown: Kansas City
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with and why: Probably some bad ass woman like Betty White. She kind of reminds me of my grandma a little bit — really sharp, she’s fun. Someone who’s lived a long time and has kind of made strides for women.
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: I have a border collie and I like the spirit of border collies.
You’re up to bat for the Royals, what’s your walk up song?: “Don’t Stop Believing.” It’s a good pump up!
What you would do if you weren’t in your line of work: I’d be doing something with writing. I also really like to be outside, so [maybe] something outdoors.
What do you hope to be remembered for?: In general, I hope to be remembered for knocking down some barriers and catalyzing some movement in my field.
Honorable mention: I think it’s important to be remembered for being kind!
An inspiration in your life: Students that I had when I was teaching at Alta Vista [Charter School.] So many of them were first- or second-generation immigrants. A lot of them are undocumented and a lot of their parents are adjusting to this country and to the language. The way that they had to kind of carry their family and figure out their lives here is inspirational.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? There are a lot of people I didn’t get to meet [in my family] and I would like to meet them.
Favorite travel locale: My favorite road trip is to go camping somewhere. I really need a lot of outdoor time!
Your mantra or motto: One of my mottos is to be thankful for what [life] is, but to simultaneously imagine what it could be.
Hidden talent or ability: I mean … I’m pretty good at ultimate Frisbee.
What keeps you awake at night: Raising children and the current state of where we’re at [as a country]. Everything from how we’re going to explain the president, to the culture, to how women are treated — and the constant assault on women’s bodies. The digital culture also gives me a lot of anxiety. I see such a lack of community and so much isolation.