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Long-time teacher happy with new post

September 03, 2008
Karen Sheller, having spent more than three decades in the classroom, teaching students from kindergarten to ninth grade, began thinking about making a change a couple of years ago and worked to get her principal's license.

Therefore, when Crawford County Junior High School Principal Nathan Freed left for another school corporation, Sheller, 54, wasted no time applying.

"After 31 years of teaching (all in Crawford County), I felt like I was ready for a career change," she said.

Officially the assistant principal in charge of the junior high school, Sheller, who taught seventh grade math for 15 years and the sixth grade at Leavenworth Elementary School for the past nine, said the position is a good fit.

"I've always liked that age group — sixth, seventh and eighth (grades)," she said.

Sheller, who has taught every grade between kindergarten and ninth, with the exception of first, called her time with sixth-graders at LES her "happiest years" as a teacher, in part because of the "intimacy" of the elementary school setting.

Now, she wants to make sure those students have the best junior high school experience as possible.

"I'm hoping to ease the transition for those sixth-graders to the junior high by adding more structure to the junior high," Sheller said, saying it's important to find the appropriate balance between structure and freedom.

Part of that structure includes having teachers use the same classroom management procedures, have more activity-oriented classrooms, and not treat students like they are already in high school, she explained.

"I'd like to see junior high kids look forward to coming to school, as well as the junior high teachers," Sheller said.

The staff has been receptive and "very cooperative" to her efforts for more cohesiveness, she said, noting she plans on having regular staff meetings.

However, Sheller said, the goal isn't for that cohesiveness to stop at the junior high school. The junior high school, she explained, will utilize the high school's math and English curriculum alignment efforts, while then inviting the elementary teachers, particularly those teaching sixth grade, to align with the junior high school.

"So, hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have everything aligned K through 12," she said.

Sheller added that she hopes to increase ISTEP scores, which have been good at the elementary school level but have tended to fall at the junior high school. The environment, however, is different, including limited time for remediation, whereas the elementary schools have teacher's aides who can work individually with students.

"That is what I'm trying to figure out," she said.

Sheller said the new school year and her new position are both off to a good start.

"It has been better than I could have expected," she said.

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