Samantha Reinecke

Samantha Reinecke

Three-time Pittsburg State graduate Samantha Reinecke was crowned Mrs. United States this summer in Orlando, Florida — a surreal experience she found  hard to describe.

Reinecke, a native of Chanute, Kansas, earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 2007 and was hired to teach English at Chanute High School. She was crowned Mrs. Kansas in 2010 and 2015 and Mrs. Midwest in April this year.

The experiences she and her husband, Shawn, have with adoption — he is adopted and they adopted a child — inspired her to make adoption her national platform. As Mrs. Kansas, she shared her story with lawmakers in hopes of getting legislation changed.

It was her experience with her niece, who has muscular dystrophy, that inspired her to seek her advanced college degrees and alter her career path to focus on special needs children.

After earning her master’s in special education in 2014, she began teaching in a third-grade interrelated classroom, then turned to online courses at PSU to earn her Ed.S. in Educational Leadership-Special Education in May.

“Having the option to take classes online was perfect,” she said. “My husband was deployed several times — Afghanistan, Russia, Qatar, and Curaçao — and with four children, I could Skype from home with them on my lap.”

She credits support from PSU Instructor Terri Swanson, as well as family and friends, for completing that degree, and has plans to continue her education next January with another advanced degree.

Meanwhile, she plans to use her new crown to take her advocacy for her chosen platforms to the next level.

“I could be a national voice for both adoption and special needs children on a much larger scale,” she said. “That would be my dream come true.”