- Grant Wood Elementary School
Kimberly Fitten, Making Her Own Way
“You can come from nothing and who you become is totally up to you.”
Kimberly Fitten is an author, public speaker, coach, and advocate, among many other things. However, within our District, we know her as the Principal at Northwest Junior High. Kimberly has been in our District for five years and is in her first year at Northwest.
Originally from Iowa City, Kimberly grew up in a low-income family and attended Northwest Junior High before her family moved to Wellman, Iowa, during her sophomore year of high school.
During her time as a student in our District, Kimberly had a number of people leave a lasting impact on her. One notable person was Bryce Hanson, a principal, who would pick her up from practice because her mom didn’t have enough extra money to spend on gas.
Another staff member who made an impact on Kimberly was Marian Coleman, who was the interim principal at Northwest Junior High at the time. During the summer of Kimberly’s 5th-grade year, Marian hired Kimberly to help her organize her office.
“I was horrible at organization, but what I didn't know then that I know now was that she wanted to be a role model.”
Marian taught Kimberly many life skills that she still holds on to today. According to Kimberly, Marian was able to do 20 things at the same time and not break a sweat.
“This powerful, magical black woman carried the world on her shoulders and didn't flinch,” said Kimberly. “She gave me hope that a child of poverty could have the sky as her limit.”
Believing the sky was her limit, Kimberly bought a one-way ticket to Indonesia, wanting to get out of Iowa. She taught English as a second language and moonlighted as a lounge singer. After two years in Indonesia, she decided to return to the United States where she took a job as a nanny in Philadelphia.
Kimberly decided to go to college after taking the suggestion of one of her employers, who recognized her potential. This was a milestone for Kimberly since her high school experience in Wellman did not offer her many post-secondary opportunities.
“I thought college was for certain kids,” said Kimberly. “I thought you had to have a special ticket to get there. There were no counselors asking ‘What do you want to do after you graduate?’”
College was not easy for Kimberly. She worked five jobs, experienced homelessness, and lost a scholarship. Kimberly eventually made her way back to Iowa, where she graduated from Iowa Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Teaching.
She began her teaching career in the Cedar Rapids School District, where she held a variety of positions until learning about a job at Liberty High School as the dean of students.
“I thought about the kids who looked like me and how I could assist that staff,” said Kimberly. “I owe every child in Iowa the opportunity to be seen.”
Outside of education, Kimberly works hard to ensure the corridor area is a space where diverse populations want to stay and feel valued. One of the ways she does this is by providing professional development in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Even with the innumerable jobs she has (educator, advocate, and author, just to name a few), Kimberly is always passionate about her work.
“Whatever that love is, find that love and hold onto it and you will enjoy the rest of your life, no matter how hard your next assignment is.”