Stacy Williamson admits feeling a rush whenever she spots the flashing lights, hears the siren.
“Every time an ambulance goes by,” she says, “my heart goes pitter-patter. I’m like, ooh, where are they going?”
It’s been that way since she was a kid. She always wanted to be an EMT — emergency medical technician — or a paramedic.
As a student at Oak Park High School she signed up for a paramedic explorers program at the North Kansas City Fire Department. Williamson, now 39, “absolutely loved it” but ended up attending Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on a full-ride music scholarship.
So how did she end up becoming a seventh-grade social studies teacher? And how does a middle school teacher end up at Metropolitan Community College training to become an EMT, just like she’d always dreamed?
At Missouri Western, she started out as a nursing major but discovered that although they have some elements in common, a nurse and an EMT are not the same. Later, “I got a wild hair and decided to become a teacher.” She was inspired by some of her own middle school and high school teachers.
And no, in case you’re wondering, she was not able to take full advantage of her music scholarship, but she did perform in marching band throughout college. She was really a singer, but most people can’t make a living at that.
Incidentally, Williamson took some classes at MCC-Maple Woods on summer breaks from Missouri Western.
She recently started her 17th year teaching, her 14th at Eastgate Middle School. She’s also past president of the Missouri State Teachers Association and current president of the North Kansas City School District chapter of the MSTA.
“I love the kids and I love Eastgate,” she says. “They fill my soul and make me happy.”
But … she never got over her obsession with ambulances and emergency medicine.
The TV hospital drama “ER”? She watched it religiously. “Grey’s Anatomy”? “Nightwatch”? She watches them “without fail.”
Then last fall her husband, Shawn, who had been working nights, took a day job. Up until then, the couple had worked opposite shifts so one could always be home with their daughters, now 7 and 10.
Williamson decided, at last, it was time to train to become an EMT. She signed up for the one-semester EMT program at MCC’s Health Science Institute — but kept her teaching job. The classes met 6-9 p.m. three days a week.
For 10 years, she and Shawn were rarely home together, “and I enroll in school and we’re back to never seeing each other again.”
The EMT classes ran from January to May. As expected, Williamson fell “madly in love” with the experience. She figures that year in nursing school helped her. And being a classroom veteran couldn’t have hurt.
MCC instructors Todd Geringer and Rachel Corr “were phenomenal,” she says. “It was a ton of fun. I know that probably sounds weird.”
Most fun of all was getting through the “book part” — “I wanted to get in the ambulance and get my hands on people.” She did her clinicals, time in the field in a real ambulance, on weekends at the North Kansas City Fire Department, the same place she “explored” as a high school kid.
Geringer says that although Williamson’s academic pursuit of an EMS career was challenging — made more so by her teaching job and family obligations — her eagerness propelled her. She participated in lab sessions “with great enthusiasm.”
Throughout the course, he adds, Williamson “showed nothing but unwavering drive.”
She successfully earned her EMT certificate, of course, and passed the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam.
The next step was becoming an EMT for real. She landed a job at Harrah’s North Kansas City Casino, maybe not a place you’d expect to find an EMT. But there’s always at least one on duty for whatever happens: falls, seizures, someone choking, respiratory distress etc.
She loves it.
But she still loves the middle school kids, too. She’s back at Eastgate but will continue to work occasional weekends at the casino, “enough to keep my skills sharp.”
In her mind, her two careers share something in common: caring for people.
Her story is also one of returning to a life goal, even if it takes a couple of decades.
“Just because you have a dream and you didn’t do it,” she says, “doesn’t mean you can’t do it later.”