Heidi Kern finds hope in teaching English and Spanish


Nelda Mercedes-Aquino

Kern keeps her library current to encourage reading.

Nelda Mercedes-Aquino, Contributing Writer

Most students look at teachers as just educational instructors and don’t worry about what the person who is giving them knowledge goes through every day. Heidi Kern is an English and Spanish educator at Franklin Learning Center.

Kern grew up in a town called Quakertown, Pennsylvania before attending Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts school just west of Philadelphia.

“My college was basically for really serious students,” Kern said. “I was around the smartest people I’ve ever met. It’s a very intense environment, so if school wasn’t your thing, you really kind of stood out.”

Being in a college filled with intelligent people might seem stressful to some, but in Kern’s eyes she finds that beneficial.

“Most people say if you’re at Swarthmore, you study really hard but you also party really hard too so I did get both sides of the college experience.”

Heidi Kern teaches English and Spanish for Native Speakers (Nelda Mercedes-Aquino)

Whenever Kern wasn’t partying with her classmates she was tapping into her studies of languages.

“When I started college, I went into the Linguistics department because of my love for learning languages,” Kern said. “By studying linguistics, I could connect to people more and make a positive change through language, but I soon realized that the better way to do that was to become a language teacher.”

Kern always knew she was passionate about learning diverse languages. She found love in teaching when she helped her sister find independence in academics.

“My twin really struggled in school and I was always more confident in my classes. No one really understood the way that my twin thought about different ideas and I could always be the one person to explain it to her and the way she understood and I saw her really thrive from that. So I think it gave me some inspiration to become a teacher,” Kern said. “It made me understand that people have completely different learning styles and if you can help someone, to find that satisfaction and learning for themselves and being more confident.”

The major impact on Kern’s career choice was seeing her teaching help someone academically.

¨Right after I graduated, I actually worked at Girls High for one year as a Spanish teacher. But then I lost my position due to leveling, so I’ve been at FLC ever since,” Kern said.

After working at Girls high for one year as a Spanish teacher, she’s been working at Franklin Learning Center for the past four years.

“Franklin Learning Center students are really driven, even if academics aren’t necessarily their passion. I feel like everyone here has a different passion,” Kern said.

FLC is not only a school that focuses on student academics. The school also focuses on the students’ talents and ambitions.

“I’m privileged to be at a school like this because we have students from all around the world that come here so they’re they may be new to the country or new to Philadelphia,” Kern said.

Most people believe students only learn from the teachers, but teachers also receive knowledge from students.

“My Spanish class that I started, it’s a native speaker class or heritage class. I get to learn a lot from students who are from Honduras, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, [and] Colombia,” Kern said. “They’re constantly teaching me new things about the language that I never would have learned speaking it amongst other Americans.”

In addition to teaching, Kern loves to dance (Photograph courtesy of Heidi Kern)

Kern’s dream of connecting with others by learning new languages has come to light, but she also has other ambitions.

“Any free time I do have I use to go to dance class,” Kern said. “I love ballet–it’s my passion–but lately, I’ve been into more hip hop and African dance as well.”

Being an educator, dancer, and grad student can be frustrating. Kern still finds joy in learning even when things aren’t so easy.

“It’s definitely been overwhelming with time management this year because as a teacher, your work is never done. You go home and you have a pile of grading or you have to figure out a week’s worth of lesson plans. So it takes a lot of mental energy with also being a student at the same time,” Kern said.

Being a teacher comes with lots of responsibilities and stress. One key feature of Kern’s classroom is that it is a positive environment.

“You have to just accept that things aren’t gonna go as planned, right? Be prepared to have anything thrown your way and just accept that you can’t rehearse a class, you know? Every class is going to be different.”

But what might be stressful to some teachers is a positive to Kern.

¨That’s the beautiful thing about teaching–even if you’re repeating the same lesson throughout the day, you learn something different based on the students who are in front of you and how they react.”