Part of the promise of the Teacher Education Program at Wilkes University is that faculty members in the department will take huge steps in preparing students for a successful career in teaching through dynamic, comprehensive programs. Dr. Karen Frantz-Fry, Assistant Education Professor, is no exception to this standard.
Frantz-Fry grew up in central Pennsylvania and wanted to teach ever since she could remember. At first, her career choice was specific because she wanted only to teach deaf individuals.
However, an experience in high school allowed her to expand her interest area. Her high school had a program that allowed students to go into a special needs classroom and assist the teacher. She went in as a volunteer during her study halls.
The work she did with those students is what helped Frantz-Fry narrow down, and at the same time expand, her decision to teach not only deaf students, but also students with special needs. The inspiration for her career can be traced right back to the students and the teacher of that classroom.
While talking about the students she stated, “the way that they reacted when they grasped something is the piece that I still grab hold of today. Even if it just happened with one child, one time, in a whole year, that’s what kept me moving forward.”
After high school, Frantz-Fry attended Bloomsburg University, which is where she earned her Bachelors Degree in Mentally and Physically Handicapped and her Masters Degree in Behavior Disorders. She also received her certification as Reading Specialist and Special Education Supervisor from Bloomsburg. She earned her Administrative Principal Certification from Bucknell University. She received her doctorate through Marywood University in Human Development with a concentration in Education Administration.
Frantz-Fry’s first job was at an Intermediate Unit were she taught the very first, high school level emotional support class. After one semester, she was hired at a new job in the public school system. She worked there for 34 years. Sixteen of those years were spent teaching various levels of special education in elementary, middle, and high school. For the remaining 17 years, Frantz-Fry was the Director of Special Programs.
She went from teaching students to an administrative position for a very good reason. As a teacher, she felt that she impacted less students compared to a program director. As director she felt that she impacted more lives, which is was all about. She said it answered her question of, “How can I impact lives and give them a more fulfilling opportunity for life, if I have any piece in that?”
When discussing why she left that district she said, “I did not leave because I felt like I needed to get out. I left because another opportunity opened for me, and that was Wilkes.”
Frantz-Fry retired for just 1 week before beginning her job at Wilkes. This is because she left her job at the public school at the last possible minute. At Wilkes, Frantz-Fry teaches numerous courses, most of which deal with special education They include ED 180, EDSP 210, 225, 226, 227, 302, and ED 652.
Frantz-Fry was asked to reflect on the question, “What were differences you noticed when it came to teaching public school students to college students?” One thing she immediately picked up on was that if she had concerns about a student in a public school setting, she could just call the parents. In college, students are adults so any concerns would need to be brought up to the student. The motivation to learn is also much different. In public schools, students have to be there. In college, students choose to be there. There is clearly a much higher motivation level to learn and succeed in life.
One thing that she didn’t realize was the fact that many freshmen still need someone else’s guidance even though they are adults. She needed to think about the fact that there are so many adjustments going on in freshmen year and they need to be helped so they can become successful college students and successful adults.
In her free time, Frantz-Fry has a six month old granddaughter that she wished she could devote more of her free time to, but distance is a factor so pictures work well. She and her husband enjoy car racing, showing cars, motorcycles, and sports. She is also very involved in her community as a Sunday school teacher, committee chairperson for her local Boy Scout Troop, a counselor for Seven Merit Badges, and a member of the Kiwanis Club. The Kiwanis Club does service projects to benefit children. She also loves to read, so it’s a good day whenever she can squeeze it in.
On campus, Frantz-Fry is the advisor for the Education Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi. To be a member, students must meet all the requirements of the teacher education program, pass the PAPA/PRAXIS core tests, and have a 3.4 overall GPA or higher. They are planning an induction ceremony for March of this year. She urges education students to get involved with the society, spread the word to others, and contact her if you need more information.
Not only is Frantz-Fry passionate about teaching and helping students to reach their full potential. She is also very passionate about Wilkes University. To end, she said, “I love it here. I love my job. I love my colleagues and working with them and I love the students. So, there’s never been one moment of regret in making this decision. I’m very happy here.”