‘I Knew I Needed To Be Here.’ This UMKC Program Was a Big Draw For Transfer Student

The Institute for Urban Education trains educators who are diverse and inclusive

At UMKC students write their own stories, form their own definitions of success and chart innovative career paths. With Kansas City as their classroom, they turn dreams into reality every day.

Isaia Wilcoxen
Anticipated graduation: 2024
UMKC degree program: B.A. Elementary Education
Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas 

Isaia Wilcoxen thought he wanted to be a doctor, but his high school teacher’s high expectations and interest in his personal well-being made him change his path.

“My choir director in high school sparked my desire to stay in school,” Wilcoxen said. “She took the time to know who I was and invest in my life. By attending extracurricular activities I participated in and getting to know my family, she truly made an effort to understand who I was as a person. Because of her, I decided for myself that I wanted to do the same for other students.”

Wilcoxen’s mother is also a teacher, and she inspired his choice as well.

“Growing up, she pushed me and my siblings to work hard and never quit, especially in our academics,” he said. “In addition to being a great mom, she was also a great teacher to me. Her warm demeaner and high expectations pushed me to keep trying and keep learning.”

The influence of both women inspired Wilcoxen to aspire to spark that same focus in other students. He started college at a small school in a rural area that lacked diversity, and had few students who shared his experiences.

“I noticed there was no discussion of race and equity,” Wilcoxen said. “Because of this, I quickly realized how necessary diversity is in education.”

Then he learned about the Institute for Urban Education (IUE) at UMKC and decided to transfer.

“The IUE’s mission is to create inclusive and responsive teachers. I knew that I needed to be here,” he said. “I understood what it’s like to not have teachers who look or think like me. In addition, IUE focuses on preparing teachers for urban schools, which is where I want to teach.”

Being on campus at UMKC reaffirmed his decision.

“The IUE’s mission is to create inclusive and responsive teachers. I knew that I needed to be here.” - Isaia Wilcoxen

”My first day on campus, I felt welcomed and accepted to be myself,” Wilcoxen said. “UMKC offers so many clubs, organizations and services for students of color, LGBTQIA students, religious students and so much more. Coming from a small, private school, I was amazed at how inclusive UMKC is. I immediately wanted to get involved and meet new people.”

Currently, Wilcoxen is participating in a paid apprenticeship program teaching at the Academy for Integrated Arts (AFIA.)

“IUE has a lot more practicum opportunities for education students,” he said. “The first semester of our senior year, we're required to go three days to practicum, where other education students usually do one. And we also have more opportunities in the community through volunteering. I've gotten to work at AFIA with their after-school program, which is a paid practicum. It has been a great experience.”

He says people ask him why he chose to focus on urban education.

“The main reason is because urban schools have statistically been underserved and have fewer resources than suburban school districts, or even rural school districts,” Wilcoxen said. “So, there's a lack of teachers, specifically in urban schools because a lot of teachers migrate toward the suburbs, because of better funding and resources. That’s what makes me want to teach in urban schools.”

Published: Oct 17, 2023
Posted In: Our People

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