Latus named one of KCS teachers of year because of ‘exciting, interactive’ classroom


Kira Suerth

As one of Knox County’s teachers of the year, Ms. Karen Latus is now a candidate for Tennessee teacher of the year.

Emily Simmons, Staff Writer

Bearden Spanish Teacher Ms. Karen Latus recently was announced as one of Knox County’s teachers of the year.

Ms. Latus has been teaching Spanish and ELL at Bearden for three years now and previously taught at Carter High School and Loudon High School in East Tennessee, after starting her education career in Detroit. She attended the University of Michigan where she earned degrees in Spanish, Linguistics, and Interpreting Sign Language before relocating to Tennessee where she earned her master degree in social work with trauma treatment certifications.

“I enjoy teaching because everyday is interesting, and you have to be creative on your feet because you never know what is gonna happen,” Ms. Latus said. “I really love teaching Spanish because it’s basically kindergarten with sarcasm, and we get to do all the fun stuff.”

Added sophomore Shekinah McLaughlin: “I really look forward to her class everyday because we have a lot of fun. It’s not just where you sit there in class and do worksheets. She tries to make it fun, exciting, and interactive.”

In order for a teacher to be selected for teacher of the year, several things must occur. First, the teacher must be selected by their department, which then leads to a full faculty vote. Once a candidate is selected by the faculty, an application is submitted to the county for the final selection of several teacher of the year recipients. Teachers who receive this title must be outstanding in and out of the classroom and among their peers.

“[Ms. Latus’s] passion she brings to her class and students every day is what sets her apart,” Principal Dr. John Bartlett said.

Added McLaughlin: “Ms. Latus is a really great teacher. She makes us participate a lot in class, but she tries to make it fun and exciting because it is really important when learning a foreign language. She also is really helpful, kind, and cares about us.”

Ms. Latus along with help from ELL teacher Ms. Sarah Bateman came up with the idea for Bearden’s Bilingual Bulldogs, a group for ELL (English Language Learner) students that offers assistance with school work and any other issue they have, as well as making them feel included in school.

“Teaching at times can be challenging because there’s not enough time,” Ms. Latus said. “I need like three more plan periods in a day and about 10 more hours to do all the things I want because it’s just not physically possible.”

“I think [being Teacher of the Year at Bearden] is a really cool honor because I work with people who are awesome and work really hard every day, and I feel like I am a better teacher because of the people I work with despite any challenges I may face.”  

Dr. Bartlett has now hired Ms. Latus twice – first when he was principal of Loudon High School and again at Bearden.

“She is creative, she’s passionate, she cares immensely about her students, not just in Spanish but how their life is going and their well-being,” he said. “Ms. Latus is truly just an [outstanding] person.”

Not only is Ms. Latus one of Knox County’s teachers of the year, but she is now a finalist for the 2017-2018 Tennessee teacher of the year. That announcement will be made by the state in May or June.

“I am really happy for Ms. Latus that she got teacher of the year because she really does work hard and try really hard to make sure we are focused, engaged, getting help that we need, and that we have a person to go to if we need to talk about anything,” McLaughlin said.