Second Time Around
By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. — When Kim Hardiman first realized she needed to go back to school, she resisted. She already possessed bachelor’s and master’s degrees plus years of teaching experience on her resume.
Now with graduation day in sight and a second master’s degree under her belt, she views her decision to come to UCF as a blessing.
“As an older teacher, you think you know it all and you don’t,” she said. “The teachers here at UCF are the best I’ve ever had in my life. I value this master’s degree more than the first one I got.”
Hardiman was born in Hong Kong and was an orphan for the first five years of her life until a couple from New York adopted her. She said she was lucky that her parents wanted an older child.
“Most children in the orphanage, they end up working in the factories,” she said. “I was very blessed. Every adversity [I faced], there was a twist or a turn that something good happened over it.”
Her upbringing in New York introduced her to people from all cultures and backgrounds. As she got older and started traveling overseas to places like the Middle East, Thailand, South America and Europe, she grew to love those cultures even more.
“I just realized there is so much to learn. It’s not just from the textbook,” she said. “When you’re in another country and speaking to someone in another language, it comes alive.”
She studied art at Stony Brook University and earned her master’s in fine arts from Hunter College in the 1980s. She remained in New York, living as an artist and a dancer. She picked up traditional Chinese ribbon dancing to reconnect with her heritage.
Sept. 11, 2001, changed things for her. She used to ride the subway into the World Trade Center frequently and said she was supposed to perform a dance there the day of the attack. She didn’t feel well that morning and decided not to go.
The galleries that displayed her artwork shut down while the city began rebuilding. She felt she needed a change and eventually moved to Florida.
Her passion for interacting with the international community prompted her to return to school to pursue teaching. She completed her Teaching English as a Foreign Language graduate certificate at UCF in 2005 before spending the next decade at Embry Riddle Language Institute. She also served as Embry Riddle’s Asian Student Union advisor.
When teaching requirements changed, Hardiman needed to earn a second master’s degree if she wanted to continue her career. So she returned to UCF 11 years after earning her original certificate.
She juggled three classes a semester while also teaching two courses as a graduate assistant. Although she said it was a lot to handle, she excelled and was selected as the 2016 Sunshine State Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) of Florida Outstanding Educator Award.
“I value what I do with my education because now I can help other people. I want to ignite the passion [in them] to go back to school. Don’t ever say no to education,” she said. “That’s my message as an alumni. Take the risk. Try something new. Try a class you don’t know. Even work with teachers you hate because you learn the most from the teachers you had the hardest time with.”