Normal in the abnormal

Theater teacher battles cancer while playing a vital role at SHS


Darcy Leber

Roberts talks with students about Zombie Prom production during Technical Theatre class on Tuesday, October 4. She checked in on multiple students during this period.

As soon as Theater teacher Kimberly Roberts was diagnosed, she knew what she was in for.
It was 2015, and Roberts had just received news of her breast cancer. She had seen both her aunt and mother go through the same thing, so she knew the struggle it would bring. Still, Roberts wasn’t going to let this struggle take over her life.
“It would feel sort of like I was giving up if I didn’t do all the things that I normally do,” Roberts said. “And I like to feel as normal as possible in an abnormal situation.”
Despite an ongoing battle with breast cancer, Roberts dedicates herself to SHS and acts as a resource to her students.
Since her diagnosis, Roberts has spent a lot of time at treatments and doctors visits. These frequent visits often take her out of school when it isn’t convenient.
Roberts believes the amount of time these visits take up is the biggest impact it has on her job. It’s not uncommon for her to have one to two appointments a week, whether for scans, meetings with doctors or chemotherapy. When this school year started up, she was doing radiation, which took place every day after school.
“It takes me out of school, times when I don’t want to be out of school,” Roberts said. “When I’m not sick, I just have to be in an appointment.”
Although her appointments take up so much time, Roberts still finds a way to be present for all her responsibilities at SHS. She is a teacher, co-department chair of the music department, drama club sponsor and director of the fall musical and spring play. Roberts also oversees the student-directed One Acts during the spring.
Over time, Roberts has had to miss some of the practices and planning that goes into all that she does, but never let it impact her. Not even her past students, like 2022 graduate Hayden Brite, knew about her breast cancer until last school year.
“She did not let it affect her at all, and she kept it to herself,” Brite said. “Everybody was taken aback when she told us. Nobody had any clue.”
In addition to being at SHS physically as much as she can, Roberts also found a way to be emotionally present for her students.
Even though there are times when she cannot be at school, Roberts gives what time she can and still manages to be a positive influence on her students and colleagues. The time she spends out of school, as well as the time she dedicates to help individual students, is something they recognize.
“Her students, they love her,” said former student of Roberts’s and current Success Coach Austin Lundsford. “She’s like one of the people that you go to when you have a problem.”
For senior Annabelle Shrives, Roberts acts as a mother figure. Identical to Brite, Shrives believes Robert’s cancer hasn’t impacted her job very significantly.
Even though teaching along with cancer treatment takes up most of her day, she doesn’t plan on giving up her passion. Roberts sees school as a place where she can focus on what she enjoys, rather than dwell on her cancer.
The normalness that school provides is something Roberts strives for. She wants her life to be as normal as possible, she says, and those normal days get her through.
“I love my job. I love what I do. So, focusing on that… it helps,” Roberts said. “It’s not an obstacle. I don’t think of it as an obstacle. I think of it as something that helps me get through it.”