By Dana Becker
Kayleigh Epps knew from a young age what she wanted to make of herself.
However, that decision was only reassured by a simple message.
"I always wanted to be a P.E. teacher, but I can remember someone saying when I was in high school to choose a career doing something you love," Epps said. "The only thing I loved more than sports or being active was helping kids, so it's always been a no-brainer to me."
Following a standout career in several sports at Webster City, Epps joined Iowa Central and the women's basketball and softball programs. From there, she played at both Columbus State University, a Div. II program in Georgia, before deciding to return to Iowa and completing her degree at Iowa Wesleyan College.
Epps played basketball at both Columbus State and Iowa Wesleyan, while also earning her AA degree at Iowa Central and a Bachelor's in K-12 Physical Education at Iowa Wesleyan.
"I am a home-body and knew I didn't want to travel too far from home for college," Epps said. "A couple of my good friends from Webster City were already part of the Triton basketball program. Coach (Mike) Brown was a good guy with a great sense of humor and I needed that. I knew it would be the best transition for me. And the dorms and campus were amazing."
For Epps, being part of the basketball and softball programs didn't just mean sticking to those teammates. As most have come to find out, athletics is one giant Triton family at Iowa Central.
"Some of the things I remember about the school were the coaching staff, not just for the women's basketball program but the men's basketball program, the football program, then baseball and softball programs," she said. "They were ALL there at games and supportive. I remember the campus being so pretty and easy to get around. I remember having some of the best professors and how much they worked WITH you! I also remember how many friendships I was able to form from non-athletes to football players to baseball players to the soccer team! I met so many people from so many different parts of the world because of the benefits of small class sizes and dorms."
Epps interviewed for her first teaching job shortly after graduation, taking a position in nearby Iowa Falls where she taught elementary P.E. for 10 years. This past school year, though, she returned to Webster City where she is the current 5-8 middle school P.E. teacher in her hometown.
"Every time someone mentions college and trying to decide where to go I recommend Iowa Centra right away," Epps said. "It's the perfect transition from a high school setting to college. The staff there knows you, grows a relationship with you and helps you feel a sense of calm when you are away from home.
"Athletics is a whole other world outside of high school sports so I knew I needed something smaller and less demanding than a university. Iowa Central classes were challenging but I was always able to receive the help I needed from either the professors or the tutors in the computer lab/studying room."
Being a teacher has allowed Epps to teach the basics to having a healthy, active lifestyle at an early age.
"Seeing kids grow and become more active each year is so amazing," she said. "Helping them learn to throw and shoot and dribble and kick and run and skip and learn about their heart rates is so cool. Seeing kids care about their health and future gives me a sense of accomplishment and a smile on my face.
"Then they leave your school and come back to visit or just say hi, ya know you made a difference in their life then."
Epps, who has three kids age nine, seven and four, admits "life is crazy, but that's what makes it fun."
"When I'm at work, it's work time," she said. "Ever since I've had kids, though, I've learned to slowly leave work at work. Life is too short to not make memories with your family. Once you learn to prioritize and know when it's time to work and when it's time to play, it's easy.
"Family is always going to be first for me."