Karen Gerhart, Lawton fifth grade teacher

Lawton fifth grade teacher Karen Gerhart grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania.  After graduating from Conrad Weiser High School in Robesonia, Pennsylvania, she decided to go to East Stroudsburg University to pursue a degree in education. After working long hours on campus at a daycare center and in order to try something new, she decided to change her major to Hotel Resort Management.

Gerhart graduated from East Stroudsburg with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Resort Management. After moving to Delaware and working in the hotel and country club business as an event planner and in sales, she and her husband, Corey, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The couple has two children, Mackenzie and Tanner, each of whom attended Lawton Elementary, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer and Skyline High Schools.  When her children were both at Lawton, Gerhart decided to try substitute teaching—and loved it. She remembers feeling so happy when she was teaching and knew that this was what she was meant to do. So she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher and completed her teaching degree and Master’s degree in Reading and Literacy from Marygrove College.

She has taught Title One, first grade, and fifth grade at Pattengill, Eberwhite, and Lawton. This is her 19th year of teaching.

Lawton Principal Rose Marie Callahan says Gerhart builds respect and deep relationships with students.

“She is their strongest advocate and creates a strong community where students care about each other and the school,” says Callahan. “Each year her students participate in service projects and she leads our School Safety Squad. Her leadership contributes to Lawton’s long-standing commitment to community service.”

Gerhart enjoys family dinners, spending time with friends and family, going Up North, photography, sewing, baking, reading, movies, traveling, relaxing on any beach, and spending time with her twin granddaughters, Willa and Noa.

Why fifth grade?
Fifth graders are amazing!  Fifth grade is a transitional year where students begin to take on more responsibility. They are developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I want my fifth graders to grow into well-rounded individuals. I incorporate life skills into my teaching. We watch Kindness 101 videos built on the themes of kindness and character building.  I want my students to recognize that they can make a difference in this world. We have started a Give Back to the Community Club at Lawton. Our fifth graders can see that their care and effort can truly make a difference in someone’s life and can be a huge boost to children’s confidence and self-esteem. Giving back demonstrates that they can make the world a better place, strengthening their confidence in themselves, and empowering them to want to help more.  We have hosted a food drive with Food Gatherers, and we have plans for the rest of the year to give back to the community.  It is so fulfilling to see my students making a difference and recognizing that they have the power to change the world. I love that fifth graders also can still be silly—and they “get” my bad jokes! 

What’s the best compliment you could receive?
Recognizing that I care about my students and that I make every effort to connect with them. The very best compliment is when past students come back to visit me!

What’s most rewarding about your job?
Making connections and positively influencing character development. I am also always learning!  Every year is different, there are always new things to learn, new experiences, and new challenges.  During Covid, teachers were forced to quickly pivot to teaching virtually. Adapting to online learning was challenging but looking back it was one of the most challenging but also the most gratifying things we have done. Teachers and students had to adapt to online learning, embracing technology and learning.  AAPS teachers are rock stars! 

Any advice for a first-year teacher?
Ask for help. Teaching is a collaborative occupation. I had so many amazing mentors who were willing to share and listen when I began teaching. Develop positive relationships with your students based on trust, respect, and understanding. Be flexible and adaptable, recognizing that every student is unique and may have different needs. Embrace mistakes and breathe!

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
Everyone acknowledges that teachers are underpaid, but some people may not know that teachers work countless hours outside of school. There is so much behind-the-scenes thinking and planning that goes into teaching the curriculum and day-to-day experiences.  Teachers not only educate students academically but also help develop social skills, emotional well-being, and character.  Teachers are champs at multitasking. 

Favorite podcasts and websites:
Podcasts: The Cult of Pedagogy, Build Math Minds, The Truth For Teachers, Hidden Brain, Meditation Minis, Dateline, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stuff You Should Know, Hope, Teaching to the Top, Up First, This is Actually Happening. I LOVE podcasts! 

Websites: Edutopia, ReadWriteThink, Khan Academy, National Geographic for Kids, StudyJams.

What do you want most for your students?
I want my students to enjoy learning and to know it is okay to make mistakes. I hope to provide my students with a strong foundation by building confidence and strong self-esteem. I want my students to believe in themselves and to know their potential to overcome challenges.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
It sounds cliché, but truly watching students learn and grow academically and socially throughout the year is so rewarding to me. By the end of the year, we realize how far we have come as a class and that makes me proud to have been a part of that process.
My students make me smile and laugh every day. It is truly a joy and a gift, to be a teacher and to make connections with students, and to have a positive impact on their lives. The hardest part about teaching 5th grade is saying goodbye as they move on to middle school. 

Why did you want to work for AAPS?
Why wouldn’t I? AAPS has a strong reputation for providing high-quality education.  AAPS encourages innovative teaching practices to engage students.  There is a strong sense of community among staff, students, and families.

How do you spend your summers?
I spend my summers doing everything I love!  Summer is my favorite time to go Up North. I try not to overschedule and enjoy every minute of summer break.

The AAPS District News welcomes thoughtful comments, questions and feedback.

All comments will be screened and moderated.

In order for your comment to be approved:

  • You must use your full name
  • You must not use  profane or offensive language
  • Your comment must be on topic and relevant to the story

Please note: any comment that appears to be spam or attacks an individual will not be approved.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.