Remembering the magic

Students and friends of theater teacher remember her effect after her passing


photo contributed by Roberts husband, Ryan Roberts

Theater teacher Kimberly Roberts stepped into SHS for the first time in the fall of 2017. She had a passion for theater that was undeniable, which showed in her ability to build the program. But this passion was ultimately paired with her magical personality, which changed the lives of countless students.

When Roberts first took on her role as the new theater teacher at SHS, Austin Lundsford was a senior, and he says that she took what was a toxic environment and turned it into something the students could find their passion in as well.

“She came in and kept the things we loved but made them her own and helped us to realize theater was fun again,” Lundsford said. “Like she’s always said, theater is magic. She really opened our eyes to what theater has been this whole time.”

This new style of theater that Lundsford experienced after Roberts arrived changed the face of the program and essentially helped him fall back in love with theater. Lundsford says that she is the one who really helped him figure out what he wanted to do with his life. 

Eleven months ago, Lundsford returned to SHS to be a part of the theater department once again as the auditorium director. Since his return, he was able to work closely with Roberts again up until her passing on Nov. 25 due to her seven-year fight with breast cancer and complications of chemotherapy.

Like Lundsford and many others, senior Kaitlin Osborne became increasingly close with Roberts up until she passed away. Osborne and Roberts would often work together after school for hours programming the music for musicals like the most recent one, “Zombie Prom.” 

“I guess I was kinda lucky and unlucky at the same time, cause I really got to know her the last couple weeks personally, outside of her being my teacher. But she was angry,” Osborne said. “She told me all the time ‘I can’t even breathe, I can’t even walk’. She was just so angry she couldn’t do it, and that was so weird because for me she was my role model and the most kind and gentle person I’ve ever known.”

Although she saw Roberts having to slow down due to demands of her illness, Osborne knew that the magic was still there. From the first day of Osborne’s freshman year, Roberts has played a role of inclusivity and love in her life.

Similarly, senior Grayson Meece immediately felt a comforting presence when walking into Roberts classroom for the first time on the first day of his freshman year. And Roberts remained to be that comforting presence throughout the three and a half years as his teacher.

“She impacted my life so greatly and has improved me as an actor but also generally as a person,” Meece said. “She teaches everyone in her classes to love everyone equally and give everyone equal opportunity, because at the end of the day we are all trying to get the performance on the stage.” 

photo contributed by 2020 SHS graduate Lillian Leslie

Choir teacher Jaclyn Richardson met Roberts on her first day of school like many students. Immediately, the two had a connection that would hold strong until the end. 

Through their time together at SHS, they have worked on a countless number of musicals, plays, auditions and rehearsals together, which formed an inevitable bond that got Richardson through most school days. 

Whether it was conversations about parenting that would bond them closer or getting through the COVID-19 pandemic together, Richardson says that Roberts always knew how to comfort her in times of uncertainty.

“She really was a great and special person. It’s hard to put into words what she exemplified because she just filled so many roles for so many people,” Richardson said. “She was mom, she was friend and…she was my work wife cause she was my partner here. And everytime I walk in, its like a missing part of me now.”

Former student of Roberts, 2020 SHS graduate Lillian Leslie would not be the same if it were not for the impact of Roberts. Leslie is currently at Ball State studying theater, following in her footsteps.

Leslie says that Roberts guided her every step of the way through her Ball State theater journey – teaching her how to audition, where to get a monologue and setting her up for success in meeting people that would help guide her during her experience in theater during college.

“She helped me record my pre-screen auditions after school,” Leslie said. “And I was being so annoying because I kept hating every single video we took, and she kept having to rerecord constantly. And she stayed after school for an hour and a half when she did not have to at all, just because I was being nit picky with myself.”

Roberts graduated from Ball State in 1992, with her bachelors degree and then furthered her education at Indiana Wesleyan University to receive her masters in 2008. After that she began teaching at Muncie Southside High School, which is where she met her husband, Ryan

photo contributed by auditorium director Austin Lundsford

Roberts, while they were both teachers there.

Although Ryan knows the impact that she has made at SHS, he also knows that it did not just stay within the walls of SHS. Roberts was consistent in the loving magical spirit she breathed into everything.

“She just cared about everyone more than she cared about herself. That’s really just who she was,” Ryan said. “That was not just at school. Everything you heard people say at school is what she was at home.”

She lived life to the fullest while she could, in more ways than one. Outside of SHS she enjoyed spending time with her parents and family any chance she could. She loved sports, her favorite teams being the Colts, Pacers and the Cincinnati Reds. She loved going on weekend trips with her husband to watch baseball games while enjoying some beer and food. 

And although her illness forced her to slow down, she never gave up. Roberts continued to do the things she loved like teach, put on performances and even unintentionally change the lives of so many around her.

“If and when she wasn’t well and healthy enough to do her job, she wasn’t living the life she wanted to live,” Ryan said, “and that’s certainly 

not to say she gave up in any way, but that was the effect. She battled and fought that off as long as she possibly could to live the life she absolutely insisted on living.”

She fought to keep the magic that impacted so many students that came through SHS. Her passion for theater inspired an unlimited amount of students, while her heart is what will remain with them forever. And to most, that magic could be described as Kimberly Roberts, but to her it was described as theater.

She used to say, “Magic is theater, theater is magic, and blessed are we who create that magic.”