Ms. Carolyn Klaus

Ms. Carolyn KlausSt. George School

Bourbonnais, Illinois

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, I attended Queen of Apostles Grammar School in Riverdale, IL. My favorite teacher was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Heiy. Next to my mom, I thought Mrs. Heiy had the most beautiful hair in the world. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I remember wanting to get my hair cut just like Mrs. Heiy.

She is my favorite, not just for outwardly characteristics, but also because she recognized strengths in her students that other teachers might have otherwise overlooked. Mrs. Heiy took the time to really get to know her students, a practice I try to emulate in my own teaching career today. She was the first teacher to see that I was not being challenged to my full potential. She would let me help with special projects, and even foretold my future teaching career by letting me tutor fellow classmates that needed help. Mrs. Heiy went against the grain at that time and worked very hard to double-promote me into fourth grade.

Looking back, I must have been a handful, as I was incessantly inquisitive. When I have students that finish first with the correct answers, waiting for me to continually challenge them, and others that constantly ask critical thinking questions, I fondly remember Mrs. Heiy. She fostered in me a love for learning and a passion for striving to be my best….all in second grade! I will always remember her for her patience, wisdom, tenacity, and understanding, and of course, her beautiful hair!

What are three things every teacher should own?

Every teacher should own:

(1) an organizer/organization system,

(2) a dynamic personal library of solid professional resources books or tools, and

(3) membership in a professional organization or affiliation.

If I could add a 4, 5, and 6, they would be

(4) some type of stress reliever and/or belief or support system (something to make you smile, inspire you, help, or guide you),

(5) a good, no-brainer, go-to outfit for those crazy days, and

(6) aspirin! :)

If you could have any person (living, dead or fictional) as a principal, who would it be?

At first I thought of Abraham Lincoln, Vince Lombardi, and Maria Montessori. These are all people I would love to have met, and have the opportunity to learn from. Currently, I really respect and am thankful for my school’s current principal. He is a breath of fresh air and an example of the type of leader I would like to be when I receive my Type 75 certification.

However, I absolutely admire and love Ron Clark! In 2006, The Ron Clark Movie took the teaching world by storm, well at least my house. I watched it, purchased his books and posters and stickers, visited his website, and created my first classroom theme around the Essential 55. The Ron Clark Academy is the embodiment of the ideal school for me. Since watching the movie, I follow the Academy’s happenings and try to implement that teaching style in my own classroom.

Check it out for yourself at

Ron Clark developed a collaborative effort of community, educators, and family that truly looks at the special uniqueness and abilities of each child, while not settling for anything less than challenging children to the fullest extent and creatively inspiring them to be the best they can be as future leaders in this world. He sets the bar quite high and is an incredible example of the proactive leadership needed in schools today.

What profession other than your own would you most like to attempt?

I really love what I do! But if given the opportunity to do something different, I will say that writing a series of children’s books has always been a strong lingering interest. And ever since I can remember, I have loved animals. It would be a dream to work with large animals, like elephants and giraffes (they are my favorite!), maybe on a wildlife sanctuary.

Describe your all-time favorite lesson/unit activity.

I have two! Pumpkin Madness and Career Exploration.

Pumpkin Madness has been a favorite in my classroom. Every fall right before Halloween, our class gets really “hands-on” with pumpkins. The students gain valuable experience estimating, weighing, predicting, measuring, de-seeding, counting, and finally baking/eating the seeds. We reinforce map skills (pumpkin ribs are like lines of longitude), math and number sense (orders of operations, weighing, and measurement), plants and the scientific method, writing skills, and teamwork or cooperative learning skills! It is messy, and a whole lot of fun.

Our Career Exploration Fair has also been very enjoyable and full of life lessons. For one whole week near the end of the school year, our class is visited by about 25 guest speakers from varying occupations. I have had veterinarians, doctors, dentists, architects, restaurant managers and servers, book store managers, interior designers, armed forces, other teachers, construction workers, accountants, government officials, and such talk to our class about what they do and why.

The students are given interview sheets with questions that need to be completed per each speaker. Prior to the visits, we go over some preliminary information about careers in general. We also explore our individual passions and dreams for our future, and develop action plans needed to make those dreams a reality.

What is the greatest misconception about teachers?

The greatest misconception about teachers is that we have an “easy” job – (we work from 8-5PM with summers off), and that we are not professionals. Any teacher worth his/her salt knows this is so far from the truth, it is not even funny!

A high school teacher friend of mine once told me that “teaching is the easiest job if you don’t care.” If you don’t care, then you should not be a teacher.

Teaching consumes you day and night, in the shower, on the way to work, on the way to … anywhere. Lessons, grading, behavior issues, … Everywhere you go, you are thinking of how what you are experiencing at that moment could be applied to your classroom. Some teachers also work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Summers are usually filled with professional development, catching up on reading, planning for next year, tutoring, or other work, etc.

I do believe that all educators should take time for themselves whenever possible to avoid burnout. Whatever that time involves, it should be a priority in order to maintain sanity and a healthy balance.

Teachers are professionals in every sense of the term. I have been on the professional business management end of the spectrum, and I challenge anyone in the professional work arena to trade places with a teacher for a day. On top of that, the amount of certification, education, professional development, and scrutiny that is required of educators is unheard of.

Further, we wear multiple hats on every given day such as: teacher, social worker, counselor, problem solver, conflict resolution specialist, mind reader, negotiator, coach, mentor, etc. A professional is someone who is devoted to doing what needs to be done even if he/she feels otherwise. Teachers are professionals.

What stereotype about teachers is true?

A stereotype about teachers that I believe to be true is that we are thought of as “not having a life”. The fact is that we are so dedicated to and passionate about what we do, that it becomes us, and it is hard to separate the two. It is all about our students, and making the most for them sometimes even at the expense of ourselves.

Teachers have a “life”, but it is difficult to get to or enjoy. By this I mean that we may have family and friends, but we are often so committed to teaching obligations and responsibilities that our “life” can feel as if it is put on hold. Teachers are real people with feelings and concerns. We are always there for others; we need to remember it is all right to be on the receiving end too.

How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

When I was in first grade, I had a best friend named Ann. She had an amazing bedroom with a huge chalkboard. Almost everyday after school, Ann and I would “play school”. We would set up our stuffed animals all around the “classroom” and teach them all the wonderful things we knew.

As I grew older, for some reason I then turned my attention to the business and legal fields, with the intention of becoming a mediator/arbitrator for union/management labor relations. My dad was a grievance committee man and a union steward and his work completely fascinated me. I just wanted to help people in any way I could. So, after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, I ended up receiving a paralegal certificate, with the goal of going to law school.

God has a funny way of bringing you back on track when you stray from His ultimate plan though. Although I ended up in the business world for a number of years, one fantastic day I met a person who completely changed my life! She asked me if I ever considered becoming a teacher. It was as if time stood still, and everything became so very clear. Every door that could open did, and although it was a very challenging experience going back to graduate school to get my teaching degree, it has been the most rewarding career choice I have ever made. Aside from the desire of becoming a mom myself one day, there is nothing else I would rather do.

Ever since I can remember, my dad always told me I should be a teacher. If I would have just listened to that one piece of fatherly advice, I could have been a teacher at a much earlier age. But I fully believe that everything happens for a reason in this life, and that all of my life experiences were necessary to prepare me to be a teacher now.

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