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Clarke hired as district's new coordinator of curriculum

WORTHINGTON -- Keeping up with the continual changes in education can be a daunting task, but for Katie Clarke, District 518's new coordinator of curriculum and instruction, the task at hand is both exciting and rewarding.

"I will be working with the teachers and administrators in identifying new curriculum materials as they come out and really using that to shape the vision of the district," said Clarke of her new role.

Clarke's first day on the job was Monday. She will work with kindergarten through 12th-grade educators.

"It's not just about ordering books for class; it's so much more," she explained. "It's about integrating technology and working toward ways to assess our students and selecting the common assessments we will use to achieve optimal learning."

A native of Owatonna, Clarke earned a bachelor's degree in biology education from Winona State University and a master's degree in environmental science from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Her career in education began at Medford Public Schools, where she taught biology for three years. Family life brought her to southwest Minnesota. Her husband is a native of the Fulda area, which is what prompted them to move to the area in 2005 to raise their family.

Clarke then worked for the University of Minnesota's Extension program for the next four years.

"I really knew my calling was to be in formal education," she recalled. "I just really wanted to get back into a school district."

She made her way back into the classroom in 2009, teaching biology at the middle school and high school levels in the Round Lake-Brewster district.

Clarke saw the opportunity to realize another one of her goals when Worthington District 518 posted the coordinator of curriculum and instruction position.

"I'm really excited to be here," she added. "This has been one of my professional goals -- to be really in a district-wide position and to work with teachers."

The Worthington district serves more than 2,400 students with an array of ethnicities, and Clarke said she was also drawn there because of that diversity.

"I've always had affinity for working with diverse learners in the multicultural setting, so Worthington was very attractive district to me."

Amid a week of new introductions and multiple meetings, Clarke is eager to continue to meet staff and is already working on selecting new curriculum to be utilized for the next academic year.

"I think the district is very strong as far as a support system network," she said. "I think the district has teachers of very high quality, and it's exciting when you have an opportunity to work with people like that."

Because education standards evolve so frequently, she is quick to point out the importance of aligning the curriculum to the standards and the district's continual efforts to ensure students' needs are being met in the classroom.

"All kids are able to learn, and it's our job to really make that learning come alive," she said. "Our work revolves around trying to achieve such learning. We will continue to try to boost the district and make us a top school of choice for students and to give them the best education possible."

Data analysis will also be a vital component to her new role.

"A big piece of determining what teachers do in the classroom is using the data we have," she added. "I will be analyzing the known data for the district and utilize it in selecting the curriculum to better determine how we are teaching to help close the achievement gap."

Although she will primarily be working with faculty and administrators, Clarke's ultimate focus remains on the district's students.

"At the end of the day, I get up to come to work because of the kids," Clarke explained. "The kids are the ones that are benefiting from my work even though I'm not directly in the classroom."