Grace Barker finds home at Campbell

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Grace Barker found her way to Winchester all the way from South Side, Chicago.

Barker, now a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Campbell Junior High School, had lived in Illinois her whole life.

She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2013 and finally left her home state to travel abroad. Barker spent a year co-teaching third grade English and science in Spain.

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She decided to travel to Spain in part because she hadn’t had the opportunity to go abroad in college and she was unsure of where she wanted to teach.

“My mom has taught in the same school, same building her entire career. She’s been teaching for over 30 years now. And she loves it, and it was great for her,” Barker said. “But something was daunting to me about that, about being 22 and making that choice and being in the same place forever.”

After Spain, Barker was back in Illinois for a year until she and her boyfriend landed jobs in Kentucky and made the move.

Now, Barker is going into her third year at Campbell and is loving every minute of it, she said. Though, she said the Bluegrass state is very different from Illinois.

“I like it a whole lot now,” Barker said. “I wasn’t super excited at first to move because it’s a very drastic change, but I love it now.”

When Barker was 15 years old, she went on a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Iwo Jima Memorial. There, a veteran named Gordon Ward shared his story. Barker said the veteran’s story inspired her and helped push her into her career path of teaching history.

Barker said her parents also profoundly influenced her career choice.

“My dad was always interested in history,” she said. “And my mom was a teacher, so the two sides just meshed.”

Barker’s father is a sheet metal worker, and her mother teaches fourth-grade special education.

“Dad has a plethora of knowledge that no one ever needs to know,” Barker said. “I’ve never been on a vacation where we didn’t end up on a battlefield somewhere, so I was always pushed into history.”

However, she stumbled into teaching middle school.

“When I was doing student teaching and that sort of thing, I just happened to be placed in middle school, and I just really fell in love with this age,” Barker said. “I always joke that those who teach middle school have to be a little crazy to do it.”

Seventh grade is a fun age to teach, Barker said, because students are eager to learn.

“(Seventh-graders) don’t need their hands held, but they still really enjoy school,” she said. “They want to be here. They want to learn, and the contrast you see at the beginning when they come here in August to when they are about to go to eighth grade in May is drastic. There’s so much growing that happens this year, and I think it’s cool to be a part of that.”

Barker said she teaches everything from early civilizations such as Mesopotamia all the way to Egypt, Greece, Medieval China, Mongolia, Japan and even the Renaissance.

“This is an awesome class to teach, too,” Barker said. “Because they don’t learn world history except for seventh grade, so a lot of the stuff I’m teaching, they haven’t heard before.”

Some of Barker’s favorite topics to cover are ancient Asia, Genghis Khan and Egypt.

“Egypt is awesome because they are so interested,” she said. “It’s something a lot of kids may have very basic knowledge about, and so it’s kind of cool to go into details about it. They’re obsessed with mummies and obsessed with knowing about Egyptian gods and goddesses.”

Barker said she is also always experimenting with new ways to teach.

“When we learned about mummies, we watched videos. We read about it. We mummified potatoes,” she said. “We tried to do different things to make it fun.”

She said she also likes to encourage students to travel and experience different places.

As for the future, Barker said she’s considered pursuing a doctorate, but for now, she plans to stay put.

“I like this age and where I’m at right now, so I think I see myself staying here,” Barker said.  “I like this for awhile.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

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