Educator of the Month: Karen Grace

 KarenGraceIt’s not surprising that math teacher Karen Grace would educate the best of the best in her A.P. statistics class at West Jessamine High School. After all, she is a National Board Certified teacher with 15 years experience, is the chair of the department with the most tenure, and she was last year’s school teacher of the year. But her A.P. class is only a small part of her day. In her other four classes, she works with struggling students – a group that has always spoke to her heart. Grace teaches two algebra/geometry classes as support for students in need of some extra help. In fact, she started the support class program at West Jessamine 10 years ago after she recognized that too many students entered high school already behind in their math skills. Originally, the program addressed freshmen only, but has grown to embrace all four grades. Along with those classes, Grace also runs a new intervention program, teaching remedial math to two smaller groups of students. Working with those groups comes naturally to Grace, who tutored classmates in high school as a sort of unofficial teacher in class. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher, and I found in high school that I had a knack for working with classmates who were struggling,” she said. Moreover, as a 19-year-old in college, she spent a summer in New Orleans in an inner-city school, teaching disadvantaged children 4-16 years old. “That was really an eye-opening experience,” she said. “Heartbreaking to see the struggles that the children faced, but it was also immensely rewarding. Over the course of the summer, you could see the kids change. They became more cooperative, and they had so much love to give.” Those experiences have fueled her mission as a student-first teacher. “She is a master teacher and differentiates instruction better than anyone I’ve seen,” Principal Scott Wells said. “By that I mean she can teach the top students and the ones who struggle the most with equal brilliance.” For Grace, math instruction is a tool toward a larger goal. “I teach life, respect and problem-solving with a goal of making successful citizens,” she said. “Math teaches work ethic and how to follow steps and procedures, essential skills for any job our students should choose.”



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