Pelham from the start

Published 12:36 pm Monday, January 4, 2016

Karen Varner is Pelham High School's Teacher of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year. (Contributed)

Karen Varner is Pelham High School’s Teacher of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“It is not what you know; it is what you do with what you know that matters in life.” Karen Varner, Pelham High School’s 15-16 Teacher of the Year, says this is the advice that she gives her students. “As an educator, it’s my responsibility to encourage students to take the knowledge that they’re given and use this knowledge to impact the community in a positive way. Students must step out of their comfort zone.”

Varner definitely walks—or rather runs—her talk. A few years ago, Varner took up running after gastric bypass surgery, in order to improve her health. The mother of two sons, Varner lost weight and found a new passion.

“Karen has told me that now she feels bad if she doesn’t run,” PHS Theatre teacher Jamie Stephenson said.

Varner has taken the stage with Stephenson for a teacher vocal duet—an experience Varner herself labeled “out of her comfort zone.” Additionally, she has emceed Miss PHS for several years.

Beyond her stage time in the auditorium, Varner also takes the microphone in the gym to keep the PHS pep rallies moving—and she works with PHS varsity basketball coach Joel Floyd to orchestrate Jo Flo’s Jungle, the official student basketball cheering section.

Varner chairs the PHS History Department and serves on school committees. She plans Pelham High School’s annual all-nighter, Relay for Life, benefitting the American Cancer Association.

Graduating from PHS in 1996, Varner looks forward to her class’s 20-year reunion this year. Since returning as a PHS teacher in 2002, Varner has taught science, history and health classes. This year, Varner is teaching Law I as the Law Academy Director. Recently, the Law Academy held its first Community Forum on School Safety with PHS Law Academy students presenting.

Varner’s energy and commitment to PHS are endless. Not only is she invested in programs she leads, Varner is also a ready side-kick helping out with many other school activities.

Varner’s willingness to serve makes her a great leader and a wonderful representative as the PHS Teacher of the Year.