Katie Henry is in her 19th year of teaching English at Southeast Polk High School and is still going strong.
“English was my absolute favorite class in high school, but I had decided even before that,” she says.
She says her love for reading began with the bookmobile. For those who don’t remember, before Scholastic Book Fairs started setting up racks in elementary schools, a bus would drive around to the country schools and sell books to the kids.
Henry says her high school English teacher, Mrs. Lehmann, was her biggest influence in her decision to become a teacher.
“She was one of the kindest most compassionate people I’ve ever worked with. She was a nice balance of brain and compassion and community all in one,” Henry says. “I guess I kind of wanted to be like her.”
Lehmann was also Henry’s yearbook advisor, and Henry says because of that, she also advised on the SEP yearbook when she started teaching at the school. She did that for seven years before passing the torch.
She says teaching for her is always about the students.
“The passion for books is secondary,” she says. “It’s seeing them grow and mature and become productive adults.”
Henry says she feels that is the joy of living so close to the school where she works. She gets to see her students outside the classroom and watch them grow after graduation.
“Some of my colleagues are former students,” she says. “I think that’s really wonderful.”
One thing her students said they appreciate about Henry’s teaching style is that she makes it fun. She says the fun comes because she feels so at ease in front of her classes.
“You have to be comfortable, and you have to be OK with sometimes looking stupid in front of the class,” she laughs.
After 19 years at SEP, Henry says she still loves coming to work.
“There are so many wonderful, hard working, and talented teachers in our district,” she says. “I feel very lucky to be at S.E. Polk.”