Karen Gillie, a graphic design instructor at the FWCS Career Academy at Anthis, has been named the 2018 Fort Wayne Community Schools Teacher of the Year. Gillie began her teaching career 25 years ago, starting as a night school instructor and quickly falling in love with graphic design and teaching.
Gillie was selected as Teacher of the Year because of her passion for doing what is best for students and ensuring the skills they learn in class are relevant to a career outside of the classroom.
“My greatest joy comes from empowering students,” Gillie wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “I believe that providing the opportunity to have their work utilized in the community changes students and their desire to learn. When students experience this success, it drives them.”
Gillie’s students frequently work with businesses in the community to develop logos and marketing materials. Since the fall of 2016, students have also worked with schools within FWCS to develop professional logos and mascots to better represent the schools. The logos are now in place on websites, school buildings, spirit wear and elsewhere.
“I am passionate about connecting students with their own interests,” she said. “I believe that this approach allows students to see the relevancy in what they are learning, which inspires genuine passion for learning.”
Each year, Gillie chaperones students at the National SkillsUSA Competition in Louisville, Ky. This year, nine students qualified, including five graphic design students.
Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson said Gillie’s passion to make teaching and learning relevant to a career is a key component in what makes a teacher successful today.
“Every day, we need to make sure that our students understand that what they are learning in the classroom is connected to what they will do in their careers,” Dr. Robinson said. “While Karen has a natural ability to make those connections, she also goes out of her way to ensure students have real-world experiences by working with real businesses in the community. Those connections not only provide hands-on learning; they open doors for students entering the workforce before and after graduation.”
Candidates for Teacher of the Year are nominated by building principals with finalists chosen by a committee of administrators. The other finalists this year were Stephanie Apt, sixth-grade math and science teacher at Memorial Park Middle School; Phyllis Boester, music teacher at Weisser Park Elementary; Scott Freeman, sixth-grade math and science teacher at Kekionga Middle School; and Justin Hoering, eighth-grade language arts teacher at Blackhawk Middle School. Gillie and the finalists will be honored at a School Board meeting in the fall. Gillie will also be nominated for Indiana Teacher of the Year.