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Rockwood Graduate, Clare Marie Kuebler, Making the Most of Her Time as Miss Missouri

 Clare Marie Kuebler, Rockwood graduate and the current Miss Missouri America, smiles in her mother's classroom

Growing up, Clare Marie Kuebler could see the impact her mother, Molly, made on her students.

She saw it through the one-on-one tutoring sessions at the family’s kitchen table, through the lasting connections Molly made with the hundreds of students that have been in her classroom and through the trips to the grocery store that would take longer than usual when Molly would run into a student and their family.

“I have always known that teachers play a vital part in our community,” Clare Marie said.

Clare Marie, a 2018 Marquette High graduate, earned her degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri. The roots of education run deep in her family. She’s a fourth-generation educator who was a cadet teacher at Westridge Elementary while she was a Marquette student and served as a substitute in Rockwood last school year on breaks from college, mostly at Kehrs Mill Elementary.

Her mother, Molly, is in her second year teaching fourth grade children at Bowles Elementary after returning to education as a long-term sub at Ridge Meadows Elementary during the 2020-2021 school year. She taught at Chesterfield Elementary from 1987 until 2000, when Clare Marie was born, then served as a reading specialist at Geggie Elementary from 2008-2010.

Clare Marie hopes to pursue a master’s degree in learning, teaching and curriculum, followed by a doctorate in administration. 

But not quite yet. Right now, she’s a little too busy being Miss Missouri America.

Clare Marie Kuebler and her mother, Molly, smile outside Molly's classroom

Clare Marie earned the title of Miss Missouri in June and will be one of 51 contestants competing for the crown of Miss America from Dec. 12-15. For the past six months, Clare Marie has been crisscrossing the state, serving as an ambassador at events big and small, meeting people and providing inspiration.

“Being an effective teacher is all about making connections with students and their families. Clare Marie is very good at that,” Molly said. “It’s been fun for me to go with her to different events and step back and watch her in action.”

It’s been a lot of work for the former Ridge Meadows, Selvidge Middle and Marquette student. But it’s work she loves.

“My experiences in Rockwood propelled and equipped me to continue on in college and in my role as Miss Missouri,” Clare Marie said. “Rockwood was essential in shaping my journey. They helped instill good character traits and core values in me which has me prepared to do whatever life has in store for me.”

Pageant Life
In the summer of 2021, Clare Marie was working at a shop in the mall and preparing for her senior year at Mizzou when a customer approached her and asked if she had a talent.

“I responded with, ‘Are you sure you don’t just want me to help you find a blouse?’” Clare Marie said, with a laugh.

The customer told her about the Miss America organization and said Clare Marie might be a good candidate to enter a local pageant. With graduation, student teaching, a part-time job and her positions as philanthropy chair for her sorority and co-captain of the Golden Girls dance team at Mizzou all looming, Clare Marie wasn’t sure she had the time to pursue a pageant as well.

But, after discussing it with her parents, she decided to give it a shot.

Miss Missouri Clare Marie Kuebler smiles in the hallway of a Rockwood school.

On Sept. 18, 2021 – after a full day of coordinating the Golden Girls to appear at a charity run, then marching in the Missouri Bicentennial Parade and performing during the Missouri football game – Clare Marie drove back to St. Louis with her parents for the next day’s Miss Spirit of St. Louis pageant.

She pulled an old gown from high school out of her closet, a dance costume from the basement and relearned a dance routine she had last performed four years prior, as a senior at Marquette.

The next day, she won the pageant.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Clare Marie said. “I think that was one of the best things for me because I was truly and authentically myself during the pageant. I didn’t even realize that, if I were to win that pageant, competing for Miss Missouri would be the next step. When I got home for winter break, I made a plan and decided I was going to stick with it. If I were going to do it, I was going to do it full force.”

After six more months of preparation – on top of school, student teaching, work and everything else – Clare Marie was crowned Miss Missouri.

Miss Missouri Clare Marie Kuebler speaks to a crowd at Selvidge Middle, where she attended

“When Clare Marie was little, she was shy. She was the one who would hide behind my leg when we’d meet new people,” Molly said. “It’s fun as a parent to see your child work hard and be dedicated to something that is bigger than themselves and to put the emphasis on the important things in life: making connections, service to others and education.”

Clare Marie has chosen childhood cancer as her social impact initiative throughout her Miss Missouri reign, raising awareness and funds at events across the state. It’s a cause that’s dear to her due to her past interactions with the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while she was her sorority’s philanthropy chair at Mizzou.

She has cherished the moments spent with children and families throughout the state while serving as Miss Missouri. Some of her travels have even brought her back to Rockwood, at the Eureka Days parade, Marquette’s homecoming week, Selvidge’s Veterans Day celebration and speaking to classes at Bowles.

“When I was growing up, I always thought it was the coolest thing when someone who intrigued me would come and speak at school or my extracurriculars. I remember those moments to this day,” Clare Marie said. “Now, to think that the roles are reversed and that I might be that person who is inspiring someone else is a great feeling. I take it very seriously and make sure I put all of my effort into every event that I attend.” 

Leaving an Impact
One day, during Clare Marie’s senior year at Marquette, Molly received a call from her daughter. Clare Marie was in a panic because she had been called to the principal’s office.

After a few moments of her mother calming her down, Clare Marie got off the phone and braced herself as she walked toward the office. She was greeted with smiles and words of congratulations. She had received The Glory of Missouri Award for the Virtue of Education from the state of Missouri.

“For the school’s faculty to come to a consensus that I would be the one to receive the award for the Virtue of Education was a really cool moment,” Clare Marie said. “It goes back to my values. I innately value education, thus making me especially proud that the faculty at MHS saw that in me. Education is important to me, so it makes perfect sense for me to enter the field of education as an educator.”Miss Missouri Clare Marie Kuebler cheers in front of the student section at a Marquette football game

Clare Marie and her older brothers, Barry and Michael, were born a year apart from each other. As they all moved through Rockwood schools at roughly the same time, they were all very involved with clubs and extracurriculars. The brothers’ extracurricular activities included football, wrestling, track, cross country and volleyball. Clare Marie was a four-year varsity dancer on Marquette Mystique. All three children were members of National Honor Society and Key Club. Their parents supported their children by being active members of the booster organizations for their various activities.

Combined with Molly’s nearly 20 years of service as an educator in the district, the Kueblers’ Rockwood roots run deep.

“Rockwood has been great to us in so many ways,” Molly said. “I am proud to be part of such an amazing school district.”

Molly’s colleagues at Bowles have followed Clare Marie’s pageant success with great interest. Clare Marie also gets messages of support from her former Rockwood educators, both through social media and in person at events in the community.

Miss Missouri Clare Marie Kuebler smiles and speaks with her mother, Molly, in Molly's Rockwood classroom

“It’s just a testament to my teachers, wanting to support their former student after such a long time since being in their classroom,” Clare Marie said. 

The Miss America Organization is one of the largest scholarship-providing organizations in the country for young women. Clare Marie is using her time as Miss Missouri to build resources and connections as she prepares to further her education after her year in the spotlight.

Although she has a mix of emotions heading into this month’s Miss America competition, she also knows that the journey itself is kind of the point.

“If you win Miss America, that’s just incredible. It’s everything and more,” Clare Marie said. “But coming back as Miss Missouri is just as rewarding. For me, it’s been about the people I interact with, the connections I make and the personal growth. What’s really cool about Miss America is it causes you to reflect about who you are and what you’re passionate about. Once my reign is over, I’m set up for success just knowing who I am. I’m confident in my ability to navigate through life.”

The importance of education, service and kindness is innate to her because it’s what she saw from her parents growing up.

“Sometimes people ask me if she’s tired or burned out, and I know she’s not because she loves it,” Molly said. “She loves meeting the children, interacting with the community and being at the schools, hospitals and numerous Ronald McDonald Houses. I’m very proud of her. It’s fun to see it all come full circle.”