TEACHER FEATURE: Karen Wheeler
Degrees and Certifications:
Gifted and Talented Teacher
Lincoln Elementary, Denzel Washington School of the Arts
Number of Years in the District: 20
Name of College(s) and Degrees Held:
St Mary’s College BA in Human Development
Concordia College: Teacher Education
Mercy College: Master’s in School Administration
College of New Rochelle Advance Certificate in Gifted Education
What inspired you to pursue a career in education and why?
I have always been involved in activities that are related to working with children. I like children. The final leap to becoming a teacher came from living in Japan. I spent time teaching English in Japan working with adults and junior high students. Becoming an educator was my way of making an impact on the world.
What lesson(s) or values do you strive to teach your students?
It is not always the smartest students who succeed, but those who are willing to do the work. I have known incredibly smart students who were not willing to put in the effort and I’ve had students for whom academics are not easy, push themselves. It really is the effort and determination that you are willing to put in that will help them succeed. I also strive to instill in my students the intrinsic value of education. Once a student knows for themselves the impact a good education can have, all that is left for me to do is guide them. They become the captain that steers the ship.
What aspect of your job inspires you the most and why?
There have been a million things about teaching that I have loved. I cried the first time I realized I taught a student to read. He had struggled all year and it finally clicked for him. We both just sat there at the reading table crying. The moment when a student realizes that they are smart, when a student discovers an interest in an area that they would have never explored if I had not introduced them to the subject area, when I see a student coming into their own during a special moment that I had a part in creating; well, there is nothing like it. Those moments are as varied as there are students.
What do you love most about your role within the Mount Vernon City School District and why?
As a gifted and talented teacher, the relationships that I develop with my students. Schools/education should be the place where students make mistakes and figure out which direction they want to move towards. As a teacher, I get to help guide them in that direction. and when I can motivate them and impact them beyond when they are in my classroom. For many students it is the arts (visual arts, music, dance) that is the vehicle they use to make sense of the world. It is the filter in which they can access the academics. They are not inside the box thinkers; they do not recognize the box.