Twenty-two years ago, Jamie Huinker attended Iowa State University to major in secondary education. While spending time at ISU, her mother owned a dance studio where she needed assistance due to health problems. Huinker left school to help her mom, but only planned for it to be temporary until she decided to open her dance studio in Harlan; where she married her husband and had two beautiful kids.
“Just to know I created a successful business in a small town, and not many people get to do that. I had so many students that grew to love me and [I] grew to love them, so it was very rewarding,” Huinker says.
Huinker owned her dance studio, in addition to teaching dance for eight years. She would teach dance four nights a week and on weekends, but it was worth it to her because she loved her job.
“Knowing that I could use my creativity as an outlet for students to be successful and do something they love and grow in their passions. I like to see that I created something and they worked hard at it and performed it, so their success is my success,” said Huinker.
“We started with 50 students, and by the time I left, there were 250 in a town of only 4,000 people.”
Later, she moved to Des Moines with her kids and her husband to embark on a new journey. While in Des Moines, she was a fitness trainer and volunteered at her daughter’s elementary school to help educate children. Being around children sparked her interest in wanting to go back to school and finish her degree.
“I knew deep in my heart that I should be teaching school. I had been a teacher on a different platform my entire adult life, but it wasn’t the right fit,” said Huinker.
She finally set-up a date in the Fall of 2020 to re-enroll in class, where she took classes at DMACC and then transferred to ISU by Fall of 2021 to major in elementary education.
“I was worried I would feel out of place being a 40-year-old on campus surrounded by 20-year-olds. But, I’ve been so lucky in the elementary education program because professors and students have welcomed me with open arms,” said Huinker.
With her future career in wanting to be a teacher, Huinker’s goal is to always joy about learning.
“I want to motivate students. That I taught them something that they can carry on. Not just academically, but I want my students to walk out of my classroom going, ‘I will always remember that teacher because I encouraged them and made them feel’,” Huinker says.
As for her advice to students who want to return to school and finish their degrees…
“Follow your heart, and don’t let fear stand in your way, because I let my fear stand in my way. You just have to go for it, believe in yourself and push through those hard times.”Student Spotlights