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Head of the class: East teacher tops in her field

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Karen Nading remembers her grandmother as a woman who could do it all.

Grandma was a fantastic cook. She was an avid gardener. She even milked cows.

Nading, 59, who grew up on a Bartholomew County farm, credits that influence with providing her with the drive to become a career teacher in 1978 at Columbus East High School.

And the fact that she bothered to become a teacher at all has led indirectly to the Indiana Association of Family and Consumer Sciences naming her as its 2012 Teacher of the Year.

“I was surprised when I got the call,” said Nading, who was recognized in June at an awards ceremony in Indianapolis. “Obviously, I felt very honored and privileged to win.”

Founded in 1909, the association’s purpose on a national and state level is to improve the quality and standards of life through programs that educate, among other things. The association supports the teaching as it provides leadership in:

  • Improving individual family and community well-being.
  • Affecting the development, delivery and evaluation of consumer goods and services.
  • Influencing the creation of policy.
  • Enhancing quality of life.

The Indiana chapter bestowed its highest honor on Nading because of her outstanding contributions to the field of family and consumer sciences, especially for the development of Columbus East’s sports nutrition program.

East Principal Mark Newell and Nading’s students aren’t surprised.

Newell said the longtime instructor dedicates many hours to helping her students develop life skills such as how to cook nutritiously. She also has been known to put in hours after work to help her students grasp the concepts she teaches.

“To her, it’s all about the kids,” Newell said.

Abigail Jones, a sophomore who took Nading’s sports nutrition class, said Nading taught her how to prepare protein-packed meals and snacks to give her an edge in track.

She said a lot of what she learned was substitutions, such as using whole-wheat tortillas in place of bread for peanut butter and banana sandwiches, which are packed with protein.

Ryan Seeley, a junior taking the sports nutrition class, said he appreciates the depth of Nading’s instruction about not only how to prepare foods but about the methodology behind it in terms of vitamins, minerals and taste.

Colin Singer, a senior who took sports nutrition, said he learned from Nading that he was consuming too much sugar and soda. He subsequently lowered his intake and learned to eat better, which helped his performance in soccer.

Nading, who still lives on a farm, said colleagues’ urgings had persuaded her to apply for the Teacher of the Year award. She said her victory will let her apply for the national organization’s Teacher of the Year, which comes with a cash prize that could enhance East’s consumer sciences curriculum.

“These kids consume my entire life,” she said. “And that’s OK. If I start something, I want to make sure I can finish in a way that I can reach students and make them better adults.”

Nading said one of the problems with schools in general is that they teach courses, but not everyday life skills the students will need — such as how to cook and balance a checkbook.

“It’s about keeping the family together,” she said.

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