Karen Leinen, high school special educator

Dundee-Crown special education teacher stresses literacy
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

Karen Leinen

Karen Leinen spent much of her career working for FedEx but her success was not fulfilling. It wasn’t “in the service of others.” Now Leinen works in special education. Photo by Brian Hill.

Schools teach children to read until third grade, when their education shifts. Lessons about the mechanics of reading fall to the wayside as textbooks are introduced and students are exposed to new ideas and concepts they must read to understand.

“They go from learning to read to reading to learn starting in fourth grade,” said Dundee-Crown High School teacher Karen Leinen. “Those kids that never mastered learning to read continue to fall further and further and further behind.”

Leinen, of Elgin, is a special-education teacher at Dundee-Crown and she works with many students whose reading comprehension is years behind their grade level.

Part of her days are spent in a resource room working with students who qualify for special education services and have individualized education plans. But even in the periods where she co-teaches in blended classrooms with special and general education students, Leinen notices the broad literacy deficits of both groups of students.

“In the past, we have not taken on teaching how to read seriously at the secondary school levels. We were teaching them content,” Leinen said. “We need to do both.”

Read the full story here.

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