By India Pilgrim

Karen Hawley is invested in teaching students not only how to become teachers and leaders, but how to be ethical and kind people in life as well.

“I enjoy teaching future teachers and leaders about being an ethical and kind person in your life and job no matter what career you may have in the future,” said Hawley, assistant professor of education.

head shot of Karen Hawley
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Karen Hawley

Hawley’s favorite class to teach is Values, Character and Leadership. The class teaches many of the skills she’s used over her years as a teacher and administrator, which she hopes to instill in her students today.

“I want to share with these future teachers to let their students know you care about them, and they will respond to you by learning. It is always the heart before the head,” said Hawley. “I want my students to be kind to everyone and be servant leaders in their future careers.”

Hawley knows how important the skills and attributes like the ones she teaches are in the field of education through her 38 years of experience as an early childhood teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, adjunct and assistant professor.

Because of her years of experience, she leaves students with more than just the technical aspects that come with the job.

“Professor Hawley has been more than just a professor to me,” said Meg McCord ’20, a senior majoring in Elementary Education. “She taught me that it is important to get to know your students and form a relationship with them, so they know you care. What makes her a great professor is that she cares about your education but also cares about what is happening in your life.”

Before coming to Reinhardt in 2015, Hawley previously worked in elementary and middle schools in Cherokee County, ranging from a teacher at Woodstock Elementary to a principal at Freedom Middle School.

While working in the public-school system, Hawley earned many achievements, including being named “Rachel’s Challenge National Principal of the Year” in 2013. “Rachel’s Challenge” is a kindness program in honor of Rachel Scott, the first victim at Columbine in 1999. This award is given to one principal in the nation who uses the program and resources to promote kindness and anti-bullying.

During the five years Hawley’s school participated in the program, several changes could be seen throughout the school as a result—a very humbling experience.

“During the five years we did the program, bullying referrals were cut by 75 percent and students became very active in pro-social behavior,” said Hawley. “I was excited for the school, students and teachers to be recognized for all their efforts to bring kindness to the world.”

After retiring from the public school system, Hawley was ready for the next chapter of her life, but her journey in education was not complete. She came to Reinhardt to teach future leaders and teachers.

“I knew I wanted to keep working with students and teachers,” said Hawley. “Reinhardt was an answer to my prayers about what God had in store for me next. I love sharing my experiences with our future teachers.”