A Staple of the Past

DECA Adviser Reflects on 22 Years of Teaching


Holding up the DECA Diamond hand symbol, DECA advisor Kimberly Stapleton poses with all of her students at the Texas Collegiate DECA State Conference in March. At the competition, seven of her students advanced to the International Career Development Conference, including seniors and eventual national champions Ethne Barnes, Paisley Schalles and Claire Poulter. “We have done integrated marketing campaigns for the past three years,” Barnes said. “We’ve gone to ICDC in all three of them, but this year we placed first in the whole thing, so it’s kind of surreal. It’s kind of crazy that we’ve been doing it for three years and last year we didn’t even place in finals, and now this year we were literally first in the world.” (Photo Courtesy of Kimberly Stapleton)

Anthony Luparello, Reporter

Communication, problem-solving and teamwork are just a few of the skills students demonstrate in DECA, a student organization whose mission is to prepare emerging leaders in hospitality, marketing, finance and business management. From role-playing and case studies to prepared events and online simulations, DECA’s wide assortment of competitive events offer a lot of opportunities for students interested in leadership and entrepreneurship. DECA advisor Kimberley Stapleton leads the school chapter and has allowed students to learn and compete in these skills since she came to Cedar Park High School in 2007. 

“My passion for advertising and marketing started in college at Texas A&M, [where] I majored in marketing,” Stapleton said. “[I] had a passion for pursuing a career in advertising, but at the time, most jobs were being filled by journalism majors. So later on, after having kids and deciding to go back to work because I took some time off, it just kind of made sense to get into education and teach business and marketing, so I was super excited that one of the courses that I was offered was advertising. And then the extension of that was with the DECA program, the CTSO, and getting to have students I can live vicariously through [with] a lot of their projects that they’re working on.”

Throughout the school year, DECA students compete and advance to various competitions at the District, State and International level, which are a part of different career development conferences that also involves activities like business meetings. Seniors Ethne Barnes, Claire Poulter and Paisley Schalles qualified for the International Career Development Conference last March in Orlando, Florida, where they then won first place in Integrated Marketing Design.

“We have done integrated marketing campaigns for the past three years,” Barnes said. “We’ve gone to ICDC in all three of them, but this year we placed first in the whole thing, so it’s kind of surreal. It’s kind of crazy that we’ve been doing it for three years and last year we didn’t even place in finals and now this year, we were literally first in the world.”

Aside from DECA, Stapleton also teaches various business and marketing courses. 

“Everything with DECA has been just really wonderful, but I think that one of my favorite things that I’ve done over the years is the burger project in my advertising class,” Stapleton said. “Learning how to dress and photograph the perfect burger – it was always a highlight of every year that we’ve been doing that, and I’d have to say that’s probably one of my favorite activities.”

Over the past 16 years, Stapleton has had five children at the school participating in various extracurricular activities including DECA, cheer, woodworking and cross country. 

“It was a lot of fun when I had my kids here,” Stapleton said. “It’s been fun to be part of all the action activities, and I still have a lot of contact with a lot of the students I’ve had in the past as well, as they reach out and let me know what they’re pursuing, and it’s super exciting to see the fruition of all the hard work, whether that be academics here, DECA here at Cedar Park High School, [or] college education and to see how successful they’ve become.”

According to Barnes, who has been the president of DECA for two years, Stapleton has been one of her biggest mentors throughout her high school career.

“Ms. Stapleton has been my number one supporter throughout the entirety of high school, hands down, no doubt about it – besides my parents,” Barnes said. “[S]he just has poured so much of her time and her energy and her effort and her love into DECA, and the students within DECA obviously like her business students as well, but DECA, you can just tell, has a really special place in her heart, and she just put so much time and effort into running the club. She’s not just an advisor, she is a part of DECA. We go to District and State and we see these advisors and people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I basically know my advisor’s name and that’s it,’ but we all know Ms. Stapleton. She knows about my family, she knows about our personal life and she truly cares about each and every one of her students, and she gives us all the resources we need to succeed. [R]unning the club itself takes a lot of time and a lot of effort because it is on an international level, it’s an international organization, and there’s a lot of stuff that goes into running it behind the scenes, and as the president, I’ve never felt stressed out about it because she’s been there to help me with it and our entire officer team. She’s just a really great support system for all of her students.”

Stapleton said that her most important advice is to find one’s passion through school courses and get involved at school.

“Fill your schedule with electives outside of your core classes so you can test the waters to determine if this is a passion that you have,” Stapleton said. “We’ve got some really great crew and technology programs and courses here that really just help you figure, ‘Is this something I want to do later in life?’ [T]ake advantage of taking a class to see if this is something you might want to do in college or maybe just go into as a career. And the other thing is [to] get involved. Definitely get involved. I think it’s really hard, especially – you know, we’re not one of the biggest campuses, but thinking about high school, ‘How do you fit in?’ and ‘Where do you fit in?’ I think the most important thing to do is to get involved and find your fit. I see a lot of students achieve a higher level of success and feel like they have a higher level of confidence as they’re graduating and moving on to that next phase of their life when they’ve been involved on our campus.”

After teaching for over two decades, Stapleton will be retiring at the end of this school year. In her retirement, she will be traveling around the United States with her husband in a travel trailer and visit her children. 

“CPHS feels like family- the best friend and support group you could ever have,” Stapleton said. “Being a teacher and DECA advisor has been my purpose and my ‘why’ for 22 years. My greatest satisfaction has been watching CPHS students learn, grow, and succeed in pursuing academic, extracurricular, and career pathway success. There are no great words to describe that other than ‘CP Proud’ and ‘Forever Cedar Park High’!”