Battle Creek Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Carter says she works to be a disrupter in her community. (WWMT/Sam Knef)
Kimberly Carter worked in education for more than a decade before she rose to the position of Battle Creek Public Schools superintendent.
For Black History Month, Newschannel 3 followed Carter one morning as she visited a classroom at Fremont International Academy.
“How’s everybody? Good morning Ms. Oliver!" Carter exclaimed as she entered the room.
When her packed schedule allows her to, Carter said she gets to do her favorite thing: read to kids.
“Kids know this is the book that makes grown ups have to say silly things," Carter said, holding up one of her favorite books to read, "The Book with No Pictures," by B.J. Novak.
Soon after, Carter was shouting things like, "Blork," “Glug glug glug, my face is a bug," “I am a robot monkey," and "A hippo named boo boo butt."
Ridiculous as it may sound, Carter said she wouldn't have it any other way.
“I absolutely love it. It is the thing that wakes me up every morning, because I know that I have the opportunity to impact a child’s life," she said.
It wasn't always that way, however.
Carter said her grandmother, Janet Marie Robinson, was a teacher. Carter saw how hard her grandmother had to work, and thought at the time she wanted no part of it. She said she helped tutor other students in high school, but despite education being in her blood, she went to college to be a lawyer.
“After the first semester of being in boring classes around international studies and things like that, I knew that I could not get away from my passion, which is working with youth," Carter said.
After college, Carter spent 14 years working in Kalamazoo Public Schools. She started as an elementary school teacher, then became a principal.
When Carter left the district, she spent some time consulting with a non profit, but eventually landed with Battle Creek Public Schools, becoming assistant superintendent in 2015. Now, Carter said, she has more than 4,000 kids to watch over.
Carter said she's always had the desire to create change in her community.
“Being a leader of any race is important, but even more so as an African American female in particular, to be able to show our students that you can achieve, and that you can do anything that you set your mind to. I truly believe that I have to show up as a model, because I am instilling hope in the children for their own future," she said. " I believe that education saves lives, and if I have the opportunity to show students that they can achieve, that’s my responsibility.”
Carter said she owes that drive to her grandmother, who taught her what a strong African American female can be capable of, and to the other African American leaders in the Battle Creek community who she works with on a regular basis.
“I am in this seat. I am who I am, and where I am, because others sowed seeds of success into my life. And so it’s my responsibility to give back," she said. “I work daily to disrupt the patterns of inequity that exist within our community. And that means that I am lifting up opportunities for all students.”
Carter said she plans to spend her next five years the same as her first five as superintendent: impacting lives, one book at a time.