Former Cimarron Elementary student returning to teach there after stint in Ukraine

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 5/12/22

Emily Childress is returning to teach at the elementary school where she was once a student. But to get home to Katy, she first took a journey that included a two-year teaching stint in Ukraine.

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Former Cimarron Elementary student returning to teach there after stint in Ukraine

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Emily Childress is returning to teach at the elementary school where she was once a student. But to get home to Katy, she first took a journey that included a two-year teaching stint in Ukraine.

Childress graduated from Cimarron Elementary School, West Memorial Junior High School, and Katy High School. She graduated from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. She said teaching was her calling, yet she had to deal with roadblocks of passing tests and job interviews. But she persevered, became a teacher, and improved her skills and teaching with experience.

“It’s like a puzzle,” Childress said. “When you’re in that right spot, all the pieces fit, and that’s where I am now.”

Then, one day, Childress received a call from one of her proctors. How would she like to teach students in Ukraine?

Childress was interested. She taught in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, from 2013-2015.

“It was a very American school,” Childress said. “It had different cultures. There were some Canadian students, some American students, and some Ukrainian students. You feel like you are in Little America when you’re in the school. But when you walk out the door, you feel like you’re in something very different. Everybody’s walking, there are street vendors everywhere, and there are cars driving on sidewalks. The temperatures there are below freezing in the winter, and you have to walk everywhere. I learned how to wear snow boots.”

Childress is following the news from Ukraine, where Russia has invaded that country.

“Some of the buildings I remember aren’t there anymore,” Childress said. “It breaks my heart because those people want the freedoms. They want to be recognized as their own independent country. They are a loving people, a giving people, and they work hard. It breaks my heart for my students. My school was a new building. Now, bombs are all around the school building.”

Childress said she remains in touch with her friends from Ukraine.

“All my friends are safe,” Childress said. “They love their country. It makes me proud that people are helping people, as other countries are coming in for relief and evacuation help.”

When Childress returned to Texas, she joined the Houston Independent School District, then became a teacher at Royal Elementary School in Brookshire. In March, she and a colleague attended the Katy ISD job fair, and when the opportunity came to return home, she took it. She returns this fall to Cimarron as a fifth-grade language arts, reading, and social studies teacher.

“The district wants to see you succeed, no matter your age,” Childress said. “I still talk to teachers and coaches who were there when I was a student. I had teachers who wanted the same success for me.”

While at the job fair, Childress ran into Superintendent Ken Gregorski, who she remembered from her Katy High days. Back then, she was a student athletic training, working with the football and soccer teams. Gregorski was an assistant principal.

Gregorski said he remembered visiting with Childress.

“It was great to reconnect with Emily, and many other former students, at the job fair this past March,” Gregorski said. “It’s touching to hear that some of her fondest memories at Katy ISD involved my words of encouragement to student groups at Katy High School. We’re proud to welcome her back to Katy ISD.”

District officials appreciate former students returning to Katy.

“I think it shows the sense of pride our students take with them when they leave Katy ISD, and is a testament to the care, support and unparalleled learning experiences they received during their time in the district,” Gregorski said.

In returning to Cimarron, Childress is coming full circle.

“It took a while to sink in,” Childress said. “I thought, oh, my goodness, I’m going back to where I grew as a student. It’s surreal.”

Childress said Cimarron recently held a Saturday event where she could walk through the halls of her old school.

“It’s changed,” Childress said. “It’s smaller, but it felt like home. It’s still there. Even though I left the place years ago, those memories still flood back. I’m very grateful and thankful that I have the opportunity to teach where I went to school.”

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