Centerville native Kelli Warren never saw herself as a teacher, and she never saw herself sticking around her hometown.
Inspired by her favorite teacher, yearbook and newspaper adviser Joan Hoffman, she wanted to be a journalist.
But something happened on a visit to Phoenix, Ariz., after her freshman year at Indian Hills Community College. She attended a baseball game where she witnessed players from the Dominican Republic struggling to communicate.
Warren breached the language barrier using Spanish learned in high school.
“I’m a talker — I love to communicate when I can and with as many people as I can,” she says. “I just realized that was something I could do.”
That moment stuck with her, and she decided to study Spanish in college, but she still didn’t see herself as a teacher.
“I thought I could be a translator, working for a company, working with Spanish speakers,” she says.
Then her grandmother died while she was studying Spanish at the University of Kansas.
“It just got hard for me to be away from home because I missed my family so much,” Warren says. “Here’s my grandma dying, and I hadn’t seen her for probably a month before that.”
In January 2001, she started tutoring at Howar Junior High.
“I realized that I liked it, I liked being around the kids, so I enrolled at Graceland and finished out my Spanish and got my teaching license,” she says.
She student taught with former CHS Spanish teacher Rosa Bailey. When she was finishing in February 2004, she received three job offers.
But she had suffered a stroke in December 2003 and underwent surgery to repair a hole in her heart. When former Superintendent Richard Turner learned of her situation, he put together a job offer so she wouldn’t have to move away.
She took the offer and for eight years taught Spanish partly at Centerville and partly at Moulton. Starting this fall, she will teach full time at Centerville.
She says her favorite part is being around kids.
“It’s hard to come to work and not be in a good mood when you see the kids that I see every day.”