With a cart full of color-coded sticky notes, snacks for students and books for various classes, it would seem that UCA family/consumer science professor Monica Lieblong always dreamed of being a teacher.
However, Lieblong said this was something that she never would have dreamed of as a child.
“Never. I didn’t know I was, none of [my sisters]knew that,” Lieblong said.
Lieblong has two sisters who also teach, and none of them anticipated their future careers.
Her oldest sister Erika Smith teaches at Ruth Doyle Middle School in Conway, and has been teaching for more than 25 years. Smith was told by her high school counselor that she wasn’t fit for college. She came back more determined and went to school to be a teacher.
Her younger sister, Myra Grantham, always wanted to be a nurse. She now teaches in the nursing department at UCA as a clinical instructor II along with her practice in nursing.
For Lieblong, she had a few different aspirations, until college pointed out her future.
“I was going to be a television broadcaster,” Lieblong said. “I was going to major in agri-business because I rodeo’d, and then I ended up coming [to UCA]and getting a degree in Family and Consumer Science, and I loved the teachers here so much that I was like ‘I’m going to teach this’.”
She was the Arkansas High School rodeo queen in 1994 and in 1996 she was Miss Rodeo Arkansas.
She went to college at a few different locations, but ended up at UCA because her sisters attended there. She graduated from UCA, and now has a masters in FACS.
“I wanted to really like what I would do, and I love FACS,” Lieblong said. “There is so much more than just basic stuff, such as food. And now I love teaching so much that all I want to do is teach.”
Lieblong said her love for FACS came from her upbringing.
She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was raised in Clinton, Arkansas, where she graduated high school.
The small town atmosphere, growing up working in her kitchen, being outside regularly and having a close-knit family made Lieblong want to spend her career teaching others about this field.
Each day, Lieblong finds motivation from her past teachers.
“In elementary, middle school, high school and in college I had phenomenal teachers, and I wanted to be just like them,” Lieblong said.
Lieblong said she is also motivated by the doubts that others have of younger generations. Her goal is to prove others wrong by finding ways to reach to younger generations and unlocking their potential.
Lieblong has seen three former students become FACS teachers.
She uses her life lessons to try to teach students who are looking for their own future careers.
“Do not let any one thing define you,” Lieblong said. “Overcome, move forward and be positive. Be positive, work hard and love what you do.”
She’s been married for 16 years to her husband, Jason, who graduated from Conway High. They have two daughters: 15-year-old Mary Alex and 12-year-old Karly Rae.
Lieblong said she doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but does love to visit the beach, especially the Florida Keys.
Photo by Lauren Swaim.