Mohnike manages mountains of work

January 27, 2009 — by Annie Lee

The clock reads 12:30 a.m. The roads are empty, students are studying for an AP Biology test and English teacher Kerry Mohnike is still working by lamp at home. Currently on her 18th year of teaching at Saratoga High, Mohnike has taken on many leading roles this year within the school that often require her to stay up late in order to finish up work.

In 1991, Mohnike started out as the journalism teacher and student publication adviser, and in 1996, she switched to teaching English classes. In addition to teaching English 10 and 11 Honors, she has currently taken the roles of Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) coordinator, leading negotiator of the District Teachers Association (DTA), and Media Arts Program (MAP) member and others.

“[The roles I take on] usually come from a need I see. For instance, with the GATE program I thought that there was a population that might benefit from enrichment of some type, and with staff development, it was kind of my turn. You have to serve sometimes, and that’s that,” said Mohnike. “I guess I’ve just always been a little compelled to be a little over-involved.”

With all these responsibilities and numerous hours of work, Mohnike is bound to lean on some shoulders to make life a little easier.

“I get a lot of help. My colleagues are very helpful and supportive and I don’t do anything by myself,” said Mohnike. “I’m on the staff development committee, so there’s all those people. Also I’m a DTA negotiator, but there’s also a couple other negotiators, for instance [social science teacher Matt] Torrens.”

In addition to the numerous positions that she holds, Mohnike is one of many teachers required to take California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) certification classes this year. Although the classes add more to her workload and she had the option to simply take and try to pass a certification test, Mohnike wished to really learn something and benefit from the courses. Mohnike has indeed taken something away from the CTEL classes.

“This year with CTEL, I do get a better sense [of students’ lives],” said Mohnike. “Also, being involved in broader school committees, you do get a better sense. I could never know [a student’s] life, but I think it does help.”

Mohnike is not the only one who senses her empathy for the high stress lives of high school students. Many of her students have also discerned this aspect of Mohnike in her in class policies that allow students to take tests during a different date if many of their tests from other classes fall on the same day.

Said junior Sonia Siganporia, “I think she really does understand the stress that us students feel and it’s nice to know that there’s a teacher that is looking out for us and not just slamming down homework and tests.”

Mohnike’s teaching style has also been popular with many students. Whereas some teachers like to keep control of the class and run the activities, Mohnike prefers to allow the students to run the discussions and Socratic seminars while she mediates from the side. She also has a reputation of treating her students as adults and being open to new ideas.

With all the different positions she holds and all the different things she does, Mohnike still puts teaching at the top of her list.

“The best part of my day is in the classroom with kids,” said Mohnike. “If anyone is looking for a career and if they could be as happy as I am at my job doing what they do, they’re really lucky.”

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