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Hitting the Jury Duty Lottery

by Kindra Barton

Kindra Barton

Military spouse Kindra Barton taught fourth grade, traveled around the world, and raised four children before her path finally led her to court reporting school. At 42, she has just graduated from Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa. “I hope that by going back to school I have taught my kids not to be afraid to do something difficult,” Kindra says, “and that it is never too late to change directions.”

Three years ago, I was chosen for jury duty.  I had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years at that point.  I was so excited to dress up and listen to adults that I jokingly said I hit the jury duty lottery.  I was chosen for a weeklong trial, and every minute was fascinating to me.  The court reporter, Teresa Kordick, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, was amazing.  She was very polite and professional.  The day I left the courthouse for the last time, I called my husband and told him I wanted to be a court reporter.

After high school, I was interested in court reporting but chose a career as a teacher instead.  I taught fourth grade in Texas before marrying a military pilot and setting off for ten moves around the world.  In those ten years, I set aside teaching for unpacking and packing boxes, having four children, and waving flags for every deployment.

At the age of 39, I enrolled in the Des Moines Area Community College court reporting program in Newton, Iowa. Attending this program required a 45-minute drive four times a week from my home in Des Moines. I just turned 42 and passed my last speed test the same month. It took three years for me to graduate.  The advice that helped me the most during school was from my professors, and I repeated it over and over for three years:

  • Don’t compare yourself with others.  We will all reach the speeds in our own time.
  • Trust the process.  Start with your theory and really nail it down and then move to the next speed.
  • You must believe you can do this.  No one else can believe it hard enough for you.
  • Practice your theory.  (Repeat 20x)
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • When you are an amazing court reporter, no one will care how long it took you to get out of school.

One of the things that has been amazing about interacting with professional court reporters throughout my schooling has been the amount of support and encouragement they have for students. Every single one of them has said, “We need you.” They invite us to conferences and buy our lunch. They let us sit in with them for court and depositions. Without that experience, I am confident my speed would not be where it is today. We even had a firm owned by a female court reporter pay for one of our certification exams!

I have not heard anyone say that school has been easy for them. I have watched students graduate in 15 months and others take longer than three years. From the first theory test I ever took, I would turn to the person next to me and say, “You’ve got this.” As it turns out we need each other. When one student graduates, the water level rises, and we all swim a little higher.

My family has changed in the three years I have been in school.  My four children learned that failure isn’t an ending. (Don’t worry, Mom, you will pass the next one!) For Mother’s Day this year, my youngest daughter gave me a coupon for “5 free pep talks.” I hope that by going back to school I have taught my kids not to be afraid to do something difficult, and that it is never too late to change directions.

In the future I hope to become a freelance court reporter in Des Moines, Iowa.  I hope to figure out downtown parking, and I hope to perfect my steno face. For today, I need to go practice.

Kindra Barton is a recent graduate from Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa. She is currently studying for her RPR skills exams.