HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR

Karen Otto

Karen Otto teaches English II GT at Southlake Carroll High School. She began her 21-year career in education teaching 6th grade GT English. Since then, she has taught middle and high school English, both on-level, Pre-AP/AP, and Gifted and Talented, in schools of varying socioeconomic diversity.

Passionate about giving choice in reading and writing, Karen uses the workshop method in her English II GT class to create a community of learners. Her classroom might be described as “contained chaos.” You would see a whiteboard filled with philosophical questions, such as “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”, students sitting on beanbags, tables being used as stages, and quite possibly a human pyramid (Don’t ask!). And you would feel the deep sense of community that is the foundation of her philosophy of teaching. The most rewarding part of teaching is making connections with students. If you were to ask Mrs. Otto’s students what kind of teacher she is, they would say that she is transparent—about her expectations, about her own struggles as a GT student with OCD, and about her love for them. They would say that she is their cheerleader, their counselor, their mom—and a learner and teacher who sits alongside them.