Teacher Feature - Lewis

This week’s USD 480 Teacher Feature is Kara Lewis, a first grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary. Originally, Miss Lewis hadn’t planned to live in Liberal or even pursue a career in education, but for the last five years she has called Liberal and Meadowlark home.

After earning two bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and African American Studies from the University of Kansas, Miss Lewis took a job with City Year, an Americorps organization that places recent college graduates at schools for a year after their graduation. This is where her passion for teaching took hold and now, 10 years later, she has a Master’s Degree in Teaching and serves as a building mentor at Meadowlark.

“I teach because I want to make a difference and see the change in our future generations. I didn’t plan on being a teacher, but I was selected to serve in a school right after graduating from KU, and that led me to wanting a career in education,” Lewis said.

It was that first year right out of college that opened her eyes to the huge impact teaching can have on the students, but also the adults who work within a school.

“I realized that I loved working with kids, seeing how their minds work, and watching them grow in multiple ways,” said Lewis. “It’s a huge reward seeing a student’s growth and seeing their confidence emerge. That’s my ‘why’ and why I continue to teach.”

Miss Lewis helps her first graders breakdown a math word problem. Despite the complexity the students remained engaged and curious throughout the lesson.

"Miss Lewis’s journey as a teacher over the past five years has been nothing short of inspiring,” said Shawna Evans, Meadowlark Principal. “She entered our school as a passionate educator, eager to make a difference in the lives of her students, and she has exceeded all expectations. Year after year, she has shown remarkable growth in her teaching practice, always striving to provide the best education for her first grade students.”

Even after obtaining her Masters Degree, Miss Lewis didn’t plan on staying in Liberal, but says she was offered the first grade teaching position of her choice and things just kind of fell into place for her after that and she is so glad they did.

“I have multiple reasons for staying at USD 480,” said Lewis. “I work with truly amazing people. The staff at Meadowlark have been welcoming, helpful, supportive, and everyone in this building truly cares about the advancement of our students.”

Another reason she has chosen to stay at USD 480 is the choices the district has made in their curriculum and the support she feels from top to bottom here.

“I appreciate that USD 480 adopted a reading and math curriculum that has shown success for all of the demographics of our students,” said Lewis. “Feeling that I have teacher support from the superintendent down to my coworkers is very encouraging and makes me feel heard and appreciated in this district. I have the opportunity to work with amazing people and I love our students and their families.”

Mrs. Evans continuously praises Miss Lewis’s teaching; as well as, her role as a leader at Meadowlark and all she has been able to learn and accomplish in the last five years.

“As a mentor to new teachers, Miss Lewis has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of our teaching staff,” said Evans. “She generously shares her expertise, insights, and effective teaching strategies, helping our novice educators develop into confident and capable professionals.  Her mentorship goes beyond the classroom; she is a source of guidance and support for all who have the privilege of working with her.”

In the classroom, it is clear that her students adore her and always seem excited to be in the classroom, even after returning from recess the students are eager to see what the next lesson or activity will be.

As the students paired off to work through a problem, Miss Lewis worked with each pair, independently to make sure they were finding the correct answer.

“One of Miss Lewis’s standout qualities is her ability to foster a classroom environment that is both nurturing and intellectually engaging,” said Evans. “Her young learners feel safe, supported, and encouraged to take risks in their learning, which is a testament to her exceptional classroom management skills and her genuine care for each child’s well-being.”

Even 10 years removed from making the decision to switch her career path to education, Miss Lewis says she is constantly reminded why she made the decision and finds the motivation to continue teaching from her students and coworkers.

“Seeing a concept finally “click” for a student and watching them build their confidence and become their own person is rewarding,” said Lewis. “I love teaching first grade because I get to see past students grow into their personalities and discover their interests. I also stay motivated with the help of our staff. Their positivity, hard work, and empathy that teachers and staff have are contagious.”

Lewis’s growth and impact on Meadowlark has not gone unnoticed by those around her either as she was named Meadowlark’s Teacher of the Year this past fall.

Miss Lewis (center) poses with Assistant Superintendent, Lana Evans (left) and Meadowlark Principal, Shawna Evans (right), after being named Meadowlark Teacher of the Year this past October.

“It feels rewarding and humbling to receive this recognition,” said Lewis. “I feel appreciated, and it makes me feel like my contributions, hard work, and love for my students is being seen. I’m just so thankful to work with a supportive and encouraging group of people, my wonderful students and their families, and the community.”

“Her five years of experience have been marked by continuous growth and an unwavering commitment to her students and fellow teachers,” said Evans. “I have no doubt that she was very deserving of the Teacher of the Year award. She is a shining example of the excellence that we strive for at Meadowlark, and I am proud to have her as a member of our team."