Alumna wins student-teaching award

Linda Hardin

Kathleen Kerr could be called a chameleon of the teaching world.
The former University student and current history teacher at Fridley Middle School said she constantly tries to adapt to her students’ needs. She mixes music, art and literature to give her students a different view of the past.
Kerr said her teaching style is always changing because different kids have different needs. She added that she tries to appeal to her students’ linguistic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, logical and kinesthetic intelligence.
Kerr’s uniqueness and creativity has paid off.
This fall Kerr received one of the most prestigious awards for excellence in student teaching, the Phi Delta Kappa Award. The award is given to undergraduate and graduate students who excel in their student teaching. Kerr was selected from hundreds of other aspiring teachers from across the United States and Canada.
“She is a very special and outstanding person who is full of commitment and integrity,” said Pat Avery, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University who worked with Kerr on the Social Studies Post-Baccalaureate Program at the school.
Kerr is not a stranger to academia. Her father, the late Norman Kerr, was a professor of genetics and cell biology before his death this fall from cancer.
Kerr submitted her application while completing her year as a student teacher. The application consisted of three essay questions and some evidence of her teaching abilities. She submitted poems her students wrote about World War II and a recommendation from Dr. Judy Hornbacher, the principle at the school where Kerr student taught.
Kerr earned her bachelor’s degree in history at Macalester College. She went on to receive her master’s in history and completed some post-degree work at the University. She completed her student teaching at Nicollette Junior High School in Burnsville and is currently a ninth grade history teacher.
Muriel Wolter, Kerr’s supervisor at Nicollette, described Kerr as a “creative person with all kinds of talent … who was a pleasure and delight to work with.”
Kerr is able to relate to the kids in such a way that some would come into class early just to talk to her about what was going on in their lives, Wolter said.
Kerr’s teaching style is one-of-a-kind, Wolter said. Kerr has a multidisciplinary approach to teaching, integrating literature, music and art into history, looking at the lessons from a humanities-based prospective. Aside from reading history, Kerr encourages her students to write poetry in association with subjects they study, and design posters representing different historical periods.
Another accomplishment Kerr had during her year of student teaching was successfully getting her students connected online. Many of her students had never had any experience with the Web. Kerr decided to include this as part of their schoolwork this year, and assigned them to find information from the Internet to include in one of their assignments.
Avery stressed how Kerr always tried to make her students think critically, and said Kerr is someone who “genuinely lives what she preaches in the classroom.”