A Life-Long Love of Teaching

Senior Hayley Benton wants to help people learn
Hayley Benton in library

Get to know our people and you'll know what UMKC is all about. Hayley Benton has wanted to be a teacher since she was in first grade, and a degree in education has been a long-time goal.

Hayley Benton ’21
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
High School: Millard North High School

A visit to the UMKC website led Benton to visit campus. That visit resulted not only in her enrollment in the School of Education, but her immersion in campus life as a Resident Assistant, a member of the Honors College and a campus ambassador. In addition, Benton was selected as a member of the UMKC Forward committee exploring solutions for university success in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Benton is a helper and her focus during the crisis has largely been on the success of others.

“They say that you’re supposed to put your oxygen mask on first when the plane is crashing, but, that’s not me,” Benton says. “I wouldn’t be able to help people a row or two behind me if I did that. I would be the one running up and down the aisle making sure everyone has their mask on — or had the ability to put their own mask on. If I see someone who needs help, I drop whatever it is that I am doing and I help them no matter what.”

She has stayed on campus and expanded her role with Residential Life to help the students who needed to remain on campus.

“For me, helping students was crucial to my success and really helped me during such a challenging time.” — Hayley Benton

“I am staying on campus throughout the summer as an RA as well,” she says. “For me, helping students was crucial to my success and really helped me during such a challenging time.”

Despite her commitment to students at UMKC, Benton is missing the children in her elementary-school classroom.

“The biggest challenge was that we were no longer able to go to our practicum placements, so my student teaching experience got cut very short,” she said. “I wasn't able to say goodbye to the class. I went from seeing them almost every day to absolutely nothing. I miss their smiling faces, jokes, personalities and out-loud thoughts. It's definitely pulled on my heartstrings.”

She has been able to stay close to her cohort in the School of Education. Beyond online classes, the GroupMe Benton started became an essential way to connect.

“We used it a lot prior to COVID-19, but once classes went online we used it a ton! While we couldn't see each other in person it still felt like we were connected and interacting with one another and building our relationships,” Benton said. “A lot of us faced very difficult things during this time as well and it was amazing to have such a strong support system of empowering women.”

“I’ve learned that I am a strong leader and that I am able to do anything I set my mind to.”

While she is not the first person in her family to attend college, Benton is the first person in a long time.

“I take a lot of pride in my academic drive, my passion for getting a degree in education and for pursuing my dreams this way because it’s not the conventional thing for the rest of my family.”

She has learned a lot about herself since coming to UMKC.

“I’ve learned that I am a strong leader and that I am able to do anything I set my mind to. In high school, I was only involved a little bit. In college, I have thrown myself into a ton of new things in order to be as involved as I can be. I have grown so much as a person.”

Her student teaching and the current crisis have opened Benton’s eyes to the challenges students face and has deepened her commitment.

“It has inspired me to work as hard as I can to better an education system that is failing for a lot of people. I want to pour my heart and soul into my students.”

Hayley’s Highlights
Who do you admire most at UMKC?

Elora Thomas, associate director of admissions, is the person I admire most at UMKC. I am a campus ambassador and Elora is my boss. She is so strong and powerful, and inspires me to be the very best I can possibly be. Sometimes I can get very discouraged because my family members and friends back home don’t understand the value of my work on campus, but Elora has always been so supportive. She has so much passion for this university. I just hope that one day I can be someone’s Elora Thomas, because she is the best person I have ever met. 

What’s your favorite social media channel?

RawBeautyKristi on YouTube is so amazing. She’s a very realistic, down-to-earth person who gives her actual opinion on things. It’s so refreshing to hear someone talk about real life on their social media platform rather than the fake stories people make up for entertainment.

What’s something that you’re missing?

I miss aimlessly wandering around Target for over an hour looking at things I never end up buying. Of course, it's a small thing, but it's all about routine. 

Where are you finding joy?

I have gone on a ton of walks and I've gone hiking a couple of times. I spent a lot of time—maybe too much time—playing Animal Crossing. 

Learn more about School of Education

Published: Jun 4, 2020

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