Spotlights

Face of the Week: Kara Bauer of Dundalk High School

Team BCPS is made up of thousands of accomplished and interesting students, employees, and community supporters. “Face of the Week” introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS such an amazing mosaic of talent, caring, and commitment.
09/11/2017

Face of the Week: Kara Bauer of Dundalk High School

Four months ago, fear settled upon Kara Bauer like a veil.

She’d taken a job – her first, full-time teaching position – at Dundalk High School, where she would teach English and theater. Then, suddenly, uncertainty bloomed everywhere, her usual confidence shaken by doubt.

“I was scared,” she says. “What will my room look like? What will I teach my students? I had a lot on my mind.”

The dread didn’t last. Over the summer, fortified by teacher friends, family, and Baltimore County Public Schools’ supports for first-year teachers, Bauer found her footing. The apprehension dissipated, and she rediscovered her natural optimism. By the Friday before her first day, she sat in her classroom entertaining butterflies rather than misgivings.

“I’m not scared anymore,” she says. Her classroom is ready. Her syllabus is solid – she starts in English with “Kindred” by Octavia Butler and either the “Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters or “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” by Anna Deavere Smith in theater. And while she’s anxious still, it’s a good kind of anxious. “Now, finally, I am a teacher. For the longest time, it’s been, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

Justin Harbin, English Department chair at Dundalk High, understands the feeling completely. He has worked with Bauer to welcome her to the school and saw in her the qualities that make for a successful first-year educator.

“She’s a tremendous reminder of how important a positive attitude is in the teaching profession,” Harbin says. “Since her first day in the building, she has been humble and open-minded about everything that comes with being a first-year teacher. All of this contributes to a wonderful poise that she has and an inviting, confident presence with her students.

“After being around her for a few minutes,” he adds, “I’m sure you’d be surprised to hear that she is a first-year teacher.”

Homecoming

Her first day teaching also represents somewhat of a homecoming for Bauer, 23. An Essex native, she went to Essex Elementary School before finishing her secondary education at what is now Concordia Preparatory School in Towson. After flirting with music therapy as a career, she studied education at Towson University and did her student teaching at Eastern Technical High School.

A constant was her love of children and her desire to teach, an interest reinforced while watching a niece and nephew, Cameron and Teagan, grow and learn.  “Seeing them and how they grew, I knew I wanted to do something in the education field,” Bauer says. Through her family, she also developed an early love of reading, from the reading she learned as a toddler from her grandmother, Anna Brooks, to reading signs with her father during their daily drives to school.

“She taught me the importance of reading everything,” Bauer says. “When my father and I would ride to school, I’d read the car manual. I felt like what Scout said in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ when she says, ‘Until I feared I would lose it, I did not love to read. One does not love breathing.’”

That’s classic Kara Bauer – she quotes books and authors often. She also is quick to give credit – to her friends and family, to colleagues, and to inspirations in her own life, including Towson professors David Vocke (“I want to be that teacher.”) and Lisa Barker (“We all admired what we called ‘Barker Moves’ – making instruction really relevant as a teacher.”).

She’s also complimentary of the support she and other new teachers receive from BCPS, and especially its focus on equity for all students. “I’m lucky I’m in a county that supports my beliefs. Equity is the bible here. You know that it’s important to care for all kids in the ways they need to be cared for.”

Bauer is excited to be at Dundalk, a school she chose after being offered an advance contract by the school system in March. “It’s been my dream to come here,” she says. “I wanted a diverse school with children from all walks of life, and I wanted a challenge teaching high school. This is a unique place for me to learn, too, and to become a better educator.” 

And, like many new teachers, she has relied on an extensive support network to prepare her for her new career. Every few weeks, for instance, she meets for an evening of camaraderie with a group of former classmates from Towson University, all of whom are now teaching in BCPS. The group includes her beau, James Trimmer, himself a first-year history teacher at Loch Raven Academy.

“Yeah, we’re always comparing notes,” she says. “We’re always talking about things like pedagogy and teaching instructional strategies.”

The year begins

In her last week of summer break, Bauer began getting texts from her mother – something that normally was not her mother’s favorite way of communicating. She’d already gotten advice from her grandmother – “Be yourself!” – but now her mother wanted to offer her support as well as her daughter began her new job.

“She kept texting me words of encouragement here and there,” Bauer says. “My parents have always supported me in everything I’ve done.”

So gazing out her classroom window on her last day as a teacher-to-be, out beyond the old Seagram’s plant to the Key Bridge in the distant haze, Bauer considered her situation, reassured herself one last time, and began to count the hours. She would spend the weekend helping a teacher friend build a treehouse for her classroom, relax with James, do a little last minute planning over Labor Day.

And when the doors to Dundalk High School opened last Tuesday, Kara Bauer was ready.

Later that afternoon, when she was asked to reflect on her first day, Bauer was effusive: “The first day of school was absolutely amazing!” she says. “My students seemed excited to be back in the classroom, and my theatre classes were awesome; the students were so engaged with me and each other.

“I think it is going to be a fantastic year.” 

Do you know of a special person who would be a good candidate for the BCPS “Face of the Week”? Let us know! Send their name, contact information, and what makes them special to cherndon@bcps.org.  

For more photos, visit the BCPS Flickr site.

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