News and Tribune

April 17, 2013

A stately welcome: Karen Pence, Indiana’s first lady, visits local schools

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Local officials welcomed the state’s first lady with a tour of their facility and a bouquet of flowers, leaving her impressed with their hospitality and poise.

But she didn’t keep them too long. They had to get back to reading lessons. 

Karen Pence paid a visit to three schools in Clark County on Tuesday. Her visits to Maple Elementary School in Jeffersonville, Clarksville High School and Henryville Elementary School are a part of her tour to schools all across the Hoosier state.

Pence said during the tours, she’s seeing a common thread in what schools are trying to do for children.

“I think what I’m learning more and more as I go around this state is that every school has their own way that they try to build good citizens,” Pence said. “It seems to be a theme that I keep coming across. It’s character traits and responsibility, but really it all comes down to being good citizens. That’s really something I’m listening to as I go around the state and might be able to build on that and expand on that.”

At Maple Elementary, she was greeted by some of the school’s student council members. Pence said she was impressed with the amount of detail they gave in the answers to her questions.

Pence has a background as a teacher in elementary schools and as an art teacher.

Lauraetta Starks, principal of the school, said she hopes Pence’s visit to reading and art classes at her school will give her an idea of how much teachers and administrators care about student education.

She said she hopes she goes back to her husband, Governor Mike Pence, with a report of how successful students are in Clark County.

“I would just like for her to emphasize the fact that she saw we’re doing a great job here at our school,” Starks said. “I hope she saw the work that the teachers are doing, that we care about the children and that we’re interested mainly in increasing student achievement.”

Pence said she wouldn’t discuss policy or school funding, but that she was able to attend a bill signing with her husband for legislation that would help career education centers across the state prepare students for the workforce needs of their communities.

At Clarksville High School, principal Brian Allred said he hoped the first lady came away with an understanding of how the TAP model his school uses helps students across the curriculum, not just in a single course.

“That is directly related to help our students go and problem solve in any other classes, especially when we think about mathematics,” Allred said. “I hope what she comes away with is that as we look at setting our education policies and what we do in delivering instruction, are we giving these kids the tools they need to be successful in life? That’s our job in many facets.”

He said he thought it gave teachers and students a good feeling to see an important figure take an interest in what they do daily.

“I was very pleased by it,” Allred said. “Anytime you can have someone come in interested and taking an interest in what you’re doing and how you’re trying to do it, that’s always a positive thing.”