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Teacher provides historical insights

November 01, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Karri Ernst, adviser to the Boonsboro High School student government and a social studies teacher praised by the school principal, almost did not become a teacher.

If she had followed her first plan in college, students would not spend the first few minutes of each day in her classes debating such sticky ethical issues as human cloning and stem cell research, she said.

According to that scenario, Ernst, 30, of Clear Spring, would not even be working in a school, she said.

"I thought I wanted to be an accountant," Ernst said.

For her first two years at Shippensburg University, Ernst pursued a degree in accounting, she said.

But she said she thought about accounting and made a decision: "This is not what I really want to do. I am more of a people person."

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She decided to become a teacher, and after graduating in 1996, has spent the past eight years teaching at Boonsboro High School, she said.

This year she is teaching three classes: Two U.S. history classes for freshmen and one Advanced Placement American government class for juniors and seniors, she said.

In addition to serving as leader of the social studies department, she is the adviser for the school's student government, a role she said she cherishes.

Principal Martin Green described Ernst as a hardworking teacher who helped organize recent homecoming events at the school.

"She is an excellent teacher. The kids speak highly of her abilities and how she motivates them, not only of their academic performance but also their personal performance," Green said.

He is particularly impressed with her work with the student government, he said.

"She does a nice job. She directs them as an adviser but allows them the leeway they need to assume leadership," Green said.

Hannah Vargason was one of Ernst's history students last school year and is being helped by her this year while Vargason serves as school student government president, Vargason said.

"I think she is a wonderful, wonderful person. She is always there for us," said Vargason, a senior.

Ernst likes to get the students to approach history in different ways. Recently, for example, she had students get in teams of two or three to develop a song or poem about the 1920s. The results were impressive, she said.

She also encourages the students in all three classes to debate current events, she said.

For the first days of the school year, she will bring up a current event and try to start a discussion, she said.

Soon, the students realize they need to be more aware of the news and they start reading the newspaper and watching television news so they can be the ones bringing up a particular story or issue in class, she said.

This has the dual benefit of getting students thinking about issues from different perspectives and drawing comments from students who might not normally participate in discussions, she said.

"For those kids who are shy, it brings them out," she said.

She tries to keep the atmosphere relaxed so all students know if they raise their hands, they can speak, she said.

"Kids learn more when they can express their own opinions," she said.

Ernst grew up in Clear Spring and graduated from Clear Spring High School in 1992. There are similarities between Boonsboro and Clear Spring, she said. The residents of both towns have a lot of pride in their schools and school teams, she said.

Ernst is a sports fan who watches and plays sports.

She is married to Andrew Ernst, 33, who teaches third grade at Clear Spring Elementary School.

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