Karlene Bauer began "practice teaching" long before she graduated from college. Her mother paid her to play school with her five younger brothers and sisters, and her love for teaching was firmly established.
In seventh grade, a math teacher, Paul Kuhni, cemented her resolve to make teaching her profession by allowing her to help bright students in the class while he worked with the slower ones.Last Tuesday, Bauer, a Jordan High School biology teacher, was named Teacher of the Year for Jordan District.
"I teach 205 students a day and love it. I must be crazy," she said.
She taught at Butler Junior High for six years before joining the Jordan High faculty nine years ago.
In addition to her classroom assignment, she helps coach the gymnastics team, is scorekeeper for the volleyball team and sells tickets at all Beetdigger ball games.
The route to a teaching career was not smooth, despite her early resolve. In her junior year of high school, she fell in love with Joel Bauer and became a teenage bride. She continued her school studies and as a senior was offered a university scholarship. It was withdrawn when officials learned she was expecting a baby.
Over the next few years, she concentrated on rearing Brad, Keldon and Barry. When they were all in school, she joined them, studying education at Southern Utah State College.
"Our whole family went to college," she said. "My kids went with me to the university library nearly every day. They studied while I studied, and it didn't hurt them a bit."
If teaching came naturally, biology didn't. "I shunned it in high school because I couldn't bear to think of dissecting frogs," she said. Between high school and college, her squeamishness declined and she chose science as her area of expertise. She continues to update her knowledge in the rapidly growing field, with college courses and through journals.
"Seeing the sparkle in my students' eyes when they learn something exciting is my payoff," she said. "Its worth the 20 years or so I've spent doing homework."
As a teacher, she'd like to see smaller classes so she could give more individual attention. She would also promote more sharing and cooperation among teachers and a larger voice for teachers in developing school policy.