The ‘aha’ moments: Teacher brings history to life, named Franklin teacher of the year

She spent her childhood moving across the United States and learning the country’s history.

Kathleen Sarles got a peek at Colonial Willamsburg every weekend when she lived in Virginia and at military museums when she lived in Annapolis, Maryland.

She graduated from high school while living in St. Louis, Missouri, which got her interested in the historical idea of Manifest Destiny. A few years living in Washington D.C. gave her a closer look at the government.

“It was something that I could relate to, as far as seeing these historical places in textbooks,” she said.

The government and world history teacher at Franklin Community High School knew she wanted to be a history teacher.

After 17 years in a Franklin Community High School history classroom, she has been named the school district’s Teacher of the Year.

Social study teachers at her high school inspired her. Her uncle was a teacher, and she looked up to him.

Teaching was something she knew she needed to do, she said.

“I decided that that was inspirational enough for me to pursue teaching,” Sarles said.

She wants to make sure that students know about history and government so they can help lead, she said.

History is not everyone’s favorite class and the talk of long-dead historical figures isn’t interesting to all students, Sarles said.

Her goal is to give them lessons and experiences that will make history seem real to them.

“I am a firm believer that you have to like your subject and you have to love your kids,” she said.

She loves teaching engaged students about history and watching their eyes light up when then are interested and engaged. And she lives for the “aha” moments when she can see that a student is getting what she is teaching, she said.

“The kids are the reason I am in the classroom and teaching,” she said.

A few years after starting at Franklin, she set up an informal traveling club that takes trips around the world, sometimes taking students.

Students traveling and seeing something that they learn in textbooks and relating it back to what they learned in class is one of Sarles’ favorite parts of teaching.

“Every time the students see in person what they learned in a textbook, it is a magical moment,” she said. “The kids are making me very proud that they are making those connections.”

She has earned scholarships to travel across the world, including a Toyota International Teacher Scholarship, which allowed her to spend three weeks studying in Japan. She has been to Iceland as part of an educational tour and learned about teaching aspects at a convention in China.

She has visited all seven continents and been to 40 different nations.

Part of why she travels and teaches history is to show that the world is smaller than most people think and that technology and travel are connecting people, she said.

She enjoys the day-to-day work in her classroom and coaches volleyball, including implementing a men’s volleyball team at the school.

She is also involved in developing safety plans for the school, including leading a program for female students about staying safe.


Name: Kathleen Sarles

Job: History and government teacher at Franklin Community High School

Honor: Franklin Community Schools Teacher of the year

Education: Bachelor of science in secondary education-social studies from Ball State University.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.