Everything happens in life for a reason, and there’s probably nobody who can better attest to that than Kim Mullen, a retired elementary teacher who fell in love with teaching not just once but twice. We may not understand where we’re meant to go, but Mullen’s story teaches us all that there’s always a plan, even if we can’t quite see it.
Mullen grew up in Hickory, North Carolina, and graduated from St. Stephens High School. Afterward, she studied medical technology for a couple of years, but after helping out with the youth group at her church, she quickly realized that her true calling was teaching. Mullen ended up graduating from Concordia University with a teaching degree and soon began teaching at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Munster, Indiana.
Mullen taught for five years at St. Paul’s. She loved the work and the kids, but after a while decided she wanted to try something new. Mullen quit, opened up her own insurance agency with Allstate, and started a completely different career.
In 2000, her dad got sick, so Mullen decided to sell her agency so that she could help out her mom. She spent two years not working to be with her family, and she knows it’s one of the best decisions she ever made.
“It wasn't something I felt like I had to do – it’s what I wanted to do. My parents had always provided and went out of their way to do special things for my brothers and me, so I wanted to be there for my dad and my mom. I think that it's important to give back to those that have given to you,” said Mullen.
After her father passed away in 2002, Mullen wasn’t sure where to go with her life. One day, she was sitting in church, listening to a pastor give a sermon about letting God guide our lives and trusting in Him. What happened next was incredible.
“I was in church feeling conflicted because I really wasn't sure. I didn't have a job, I was living off the selling of my business, and I just didn’t know what was going to happen with my life. The next day, I got a phone call from St. Paul’s asking me if I'd be interested in coming back to teach. I interviewed on Wednesday and by Thursday I had a job,” said Mullen.
Reflecting on that moment now, Mullen knows that God was there for her the whole time, just waiting to guide her where she needed to go.
“A lot of times you don't think about those things, and then all of a sudden something like that will happen in your life and you have the opportunity to step back and say, ‘I can see where God's hand was guiding me and taking me, where He wanted me to go,’” said Mullen.
After being away from teaching for nearly 20 years, Mullen came back to her true passion. She even got to teach in the very same classroom she’d taught in before. Mullen spent the rest of her career teaching at St. Paul’s until she retired in 2020, and she couldn’t be happier with where life took her.
“Teaching is an extremely important career and not to be taken lightly. You have the opportunity to shape children and their interests. I’ve had so many students come back and say, ‘Thank you, Miss Mullen, for all that you did for me. You are a very important part of my life and were a big part of helping me decide what I wanted to do when I grew up.’ You truly have a large impact,” said Mullen.
Since retiring, Mullen spends a lot of her time substitute teaching at St. Paul’s. On Fridays, she and another retired teacher like to go to the school’s library and read to the kids during their library time. She loves watching college basketball and is a huge Duke fan.
Mullen is appreciative of so many people, but she’s especially thankful for all of her past students and her fellow teachers.
“I'd like to give a shout-out to all of my students that I've had for being a part of me and helping to form my career and teach me because it's a two-way street – students can teach you just as much as you teach them. I also want to give a shout-out to the teachers that I taught with because, as teachers, we feed off each other. We get ideas from each other, and we discuss problems that we might be having in our classrooms. It’s just great,” said Mullen.
She’s also particularly grateful to one of her past students, Zach Blair, and his family. She got to teach all three of the Blair kids and has become great friends with their parents. Mullen is thankful for everything they’ve done for her and can’t imagine what life would be like without them.