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LRC instructor Kimberly DeWolf continues to assist students after 25 years


DeWolf helps kids who learn differently

[/media-credit] Kimberley DeWolf serves in special education through Fresno Christian’s Learning Resource Center.

After a 16-year partnership with the Fresno Christian Learning Resource Center, campus staff member Kimberley DeWolf understands the importance of compassion and empathy when assisting her students. With a passion for special education traced back through a multigenerational family teaching career, some of DeWolf’s biggest influences consist of her own family members. 

Born and raised in the small town of Wasco, California, DeWolf spent most of her time on the family ranch carried out by four generations. There, she developed a love for the outdoors at a young age. During her childhood, DeWolf often took trips up to her family’s five-generation cabin.

“My favorite memory as a child is going to our cabin in Paso Park,” DeWolf said. “We would hike, go fishing, play cards, roast marshmallows and go snow sledding. Another fond memory was spending our two-week pack trips riding on horses in the high country.” 

In the time aside from these excursions, she could be found cooking, swimming, or expressing her musical talents on the piano. Actively involved in her high school at Wasco Union, she also enjoyed participating in team sports such as synchronized swimming and horseback riding. 

While these hobbies kept her active and involved throughout her high school career, DeWolf had alternative aspirations when attending college. Her curiosity for both the medical and educational fields heavily shaped her college experience. Torn between these two interests, she quickly narrowed her choices down after reflecting on a future lifestyle and encountering some complicated courses. 

“I’ve always either wanted to be in education or a nurse,” DeWolf said. “I realized after going to school and taking chemistry and some of those really hard classes with long labs that I didn’t want to go to school for six years to be an ER nurse or a surgical nurse. I wanted to be a mom; I wanted to stay home and have weekends and summers and holidays so I kinda switched gears from nursing into education.”

[/media-credit] DeWolf (3rd from left) and family spend time at their cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Before pursuing her career in teaching, DeWolf spent two years at San Diego State following a pre-nursing major. From there, she transferred to Fresno State where she met her husband John who shared her interest in swimming as he was a part of the swim and water polo teams. At Fresno State, DeWolf received her Liberal arts degree in 1982 and returned for a Master’s in Education ten years later.

As a 31-year first-grade teacher, DeWolf’s mother remains one of the strongest influences in her choice to pursue special education. She always told her that “All students are capable of learning! Not all children learn in the same way, but they do all learn in their own time.” DeWolf took these words to heart, seeing the need for special education teachers at the time. 

Her first years of teaching began in the public school spectrum at Clovis and Sanger Unified. While she enjoyed her time there, Fresno Christian would soon become the place she called home.

“I loved teaching in the public school when I was there,” DeWolf said. “When I had my family, I chose to stay home for a while. At that time we decided as husband and wife that our children would go to Fresno Christian. So I started subbing here and meeting families and parents and I knew they had a Special ED resource center and I was very interested.”

After enrolling both her children in kindergarten at Fresno Christian, DeWolf came to love the environment of the school and sought out a full-time job.  Since becoming a part of the Fresno Christian community, DeWolf views it as her own type of church. She knew that sacrifice and adjustment would be two major hurdles to overcome but that the reward was worth it. 

 “While I did take a drop in pay to be here, my husband’s job provided me the opportunity to work here as long as I have,” DeWolf said.  “It is a sacrifice to put your kids here and to pay tuition and it is a sacrifice to work here. Yes, I have a Master’s Degree; I can make a lot more money in the public school, but as Jeremy has always said, and as my husband and I feel, it’s a ministry. This is a ministry to me; it’s a ministry to my students and families.”

In the following podcast, Jewel Chandler interviews Tamara Hill about Kimberly DeWolf’s time at Fresno Christian.

With a 20-year record at Fresno Christian, second LRC staff member Tamara Hill primarily worked at the northeast campus, helping K-2nd grade students while DeWolf was positioned on the now permanent FCS campus. Forming a 15-year friendship, Hill reflects on DeWolf’s passion for the job and recalls her first impressions when she began working at FCS. 

“She was a very passionate woman who cared deeply about kids that learned differently,” Hill said. “She had an ability to empathize and have compassion for kids that learn in a different way because they have a lens that most typical students don’t. She was able to come alongside those students in a way that makes them feel successful but not less than.” 

Former FCS parent Martha Smoljan enrolled her daughter Jenna at Fresno Christian from 3rd-6th grade. During that time, DeWolf assisted Jenna with areas of academic struggle. Smoljan credits DeWolf’s commitment and love for her students as a reason for Jenna’s success.

“Jenna had special learning needs,” Smoljan said. “Mrs. DeWolf motivated Jenna to learn academic skills and life skills by teaching Jenna to learn at her own pace. She spent extra hours of her own personal time to help Jenna pass on to the next grade. Mrs. DeWolf was an answer to our prayers.”

[/media-credit] DeWolf works to help all students learn academically, but also improve their social and spiritual well-being as well.

Now a student at Minarets High School, Jenna implements the learning techniques taught by DeWolf in her current classes. With an eight-year relationship, Jenna and DeWolf remain, close friends, as they frequently see each other outside of school.

Throughout her time in both the public and private school areas, DeWolf’s dedication to her job has helped lead many students down a path of success. While helping others overcome social and academic barriers, she has also taken away some major life lessons in the process.

“The most I’ve learned from my students is acceptance because students who have a learning disability or learn differently really struggle socially,” DeWolf said.  “They don’t want to be different and they just want to be treated normally.  I tell my students that they are all uniquely created in the image of God and that even though school is hard or something is hard doesn’t mean they don’t have gifts or potential and worth. When I say that to them I’m also hearing myself say that.”

After 25 years of teaching, DeWolf strives to give her best to each student she comes across. And because of that, her students give back by putting forth their very best effort. DeWolf is a living example of Jesus’ promise in Luke 6:38 – “Give and it will be given back to you.”  We thank God for allowing DeWolf to be such a vital part of the Fresno Christian Schools family.

For more articles, check out EDITORIAL: the cost of free expression, or COLUMN: L.E.A.D. via answer.

Jewel Chandler can be reached via Twitter and via email.

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  • S

    Scott FalkMay 18, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Really nice job on this article Jewel. Mrs. DeWolf is a great part of our team here. Well done.

  • T

    Tamara HillMay 13, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Great article!!!