When inclement weather forced Harding classes to go online last school year, one student made a connection she will never forget. Dr. Anita Killins, professor of physical therapy, was in an online meeting with one of her graduate students, Nakia Trotter, when her husband walked past the camera.
“When she saw my husband, she stopped talking and asked for his attention,” Anita said. “She said, ‘Mr. Killins, I went to [elementary in] Lake Village, and I had a teacher named Mr. Killins. Is that you?’ After talking for just a few minutes, they realized my husband had taught her in third grade, and here I am, 20 years later, teaching her how to be a physical therapist.”
Both Harding graduates, Dr. Anita and Jason Killins moved to Greenville, Mississippi, in 1999 after Dr. Killins earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Creighton University. While living in Greenville, Mr. Killins taught at Lakeside Elementary in Lake Village, Arkansas, where he taught Nakia Trotter. After they moved back to Arkansas in 2005, Dr. Killins helped start the physical therapy program at Harding in 2011 and has continued serving as a professor. Jason Killins currently teaches fourth grade at Southwest Middle School in Searcy.
“When [Nakia] said my name, I didn’t recognize her immediately, but after hearing her name, I recognized the same beautiful smile and disposition from my classroom so many years before,” Killins said. “I could hardly believe it at first! At the same time, I was quickly doing the math and wondering about her journey and what had led her to Harding. What a blessing that God would weave our lives together in this way.”
Trotter wishes there had been more teachers like Killins at Lakeside Elementary. She said that the Killinses’ being adamant about education allowed her to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.
“When I made the connection, I was shocked and overjoyed,” Trotter said. “I never thought I would come across my third-grade teacher while pursuing my doctorate in Searcy, Arkansas. It was a blessing to have Mr. Killins as my third-grade teacher and an even bigger blessing to be taught by his wife while pursuing my [physical therapy] degree.”
Dr. Killins said that elementary school teachers usually don’t have the joy of knowing what their students are doing in life or that they’ve been successful and are pursuing their dreams.
“This was a rare moment of coincidence when my husband was blessed to see the arc of education, to find one of his sweet kids working hard to become a health care provider,” she said.
21 years later, Mr. Killins was able to witness one of his third-grade students walk across the stage in the Benson Auditorium and graduate with her Doctor of Physical Therapy, which his wife, Dr. Killins, helped her obtain.