FEATURED TEACHER: Spahr-Thomas reflects on path to teaching

Vanessa Kamman, Feature Editor

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Karen Spahr-Thomas has taught at DGN for 18 years. She currently teaches Law in American Society and AP United States History,

A native of Ohio, Spahr-Thomas triple majored in journalism, business, and history at Bowling Green State University.

Spahr-Thomas spent her first few years out of college working in business. When friends of hers began to tell her that she would make a good teacher, she decided to change her career path.

“I think that they thought my positive, outgoing, knowledgeable attitude would make me a good teacher,” Sphar-Thomas said.

Sphar-Thomas finally decided to take the advice of her friends’ advice when she moved from Ohio to Chicago to get married. During that time, she received a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Spahr-Thomas began working as a substitute in District 58, familiarizing herself with the community.

In 2001, she started at Downers Grove North. The next year the former law teacher retired, leaving her the class.

“The summer before I started teaching the class I felt like I was studying for the bar exam, but then I realized that no students will know this; most do not know the 4th amendment,” Spahr-Thomas said.

Spahr-Thomas has also taught AP United States History (APUSH) for 10 years and made the course what it is now.

Previously, there had been an honors U.S. history class offered to sophomores. APUSH was offered to juniors and seniors only, but students who had already taken the honors course did not want to take the AP class, making enrollment low.

“I realized that not a lot of kids were taking Advanced Placement, so I suggested that sophomores could handle the AP course load to the principal at the time,” Spar-Thomas.

Spahr-Thomas views teaching as one of society’s most rewarding careers.

“Every single student that has sat in my classes teaches me as much as I teach them. They each bring their own life experiences to class and energy,” Spahr-Thomas said.

Teaching and working with highly motivated students has made Spahr-Thomas hopeful for the generations ahead.

“My friends ask me all the time, is there any hope for the future?” Spahr-Thomas said. “Being in the classroom with students optimistic about life, I know that there is.”