New German teacher comments on teaching career, transition to Westlake High School


Kristen Carroll became Westlake’s new German teacher over the summer, replacing Scott Gardner, who retired last year. Carroll worked four years at The Woodlands before coming to Westlake, and during those years the German program there expanded from six classes on her arrival to 12, including the addition of another teacher to teach German 1 students.

Carroll first found her interest for German during high school, but it wasn’t until she was in college at the University of North Texas that she decided to change her major from art to both German and Communication Studies, while also achieving a minor in education.

“I actually didn’t really know I wanted to be a teacher,” Carroll said. “When I was still taking German classes I had the chance to be a tutor for UNT, surprisingly. Then I liked it so much that I also [became] a teacher’s assistant at UNT, so I taught for two semesters. I absolutely loved it and I decided that was what I was going to do.”

After graduation, she moved to Austin for a brief time, working in both the Pflugerville and Round Rock ISDs as a substitute, also tutoring Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) programs in Pflugerville. She then took the German teacher opening at The Woodlands.

“It turns out that the German teacher [at The Woodlands] kind of surprise retired, so in the middle of summer they were scrambling to find a new teacher,” Carroll said. “I sent in my letter of interest and had my interview. I think I was hired in like a week. I don’t know if that’s because they liked me so much or they were just that desperate for somebody to teach.”

At Westlake, Carroll hopes to get to know the students and the culture more as the year progresses. She wants to expand on Gardner’s previous work as she gets to know the history of Westlake and find her place in the language department.

“I love Herr Gardner,” Carroll said. “He is a super cool dude, and I know that all the students and all the staff love him. He had been here for literally decades. So I want to find a place, because I know I have very big shoes to fill, and obviously I am a very different person. I want to get familiar with the students and the school so I can continue his awesome legacy. This is a long projection for next year, but I really want to grow the German program so we can have hopefully in a couple of years more German teachers.”

So far, Carroll has enjoyed the atmosphere at Westlake, which she heard seemed to be an overall good place to be.

“Everyone has been super friendly and warm,” Carroll said. “I only really have two rules in my classroom, and the first is ’Don’t be mean’ and so far no one has been mean. I actually looked at Google reviews, and [another website]. At my previous school, I got along really well with 99.9 percent of the kids — there wasn’t anybody who tried to slash my tires or anything like that; but a lot of the online reviews were like ‘Kids here are mean.’ Here the online reviews were like ‘Everyone here is nice. You think that they will be super mean, but no, everyone is really nice.’ And that is completely the impression I’ve gotten. You never see online reviews that all say good things about a place.”

With the legacy Gardner left behind, some kids are disappointed about his departure. Carroll hopes that as she settles into Westlake, this will dissipate. Overall, however, Carroll said that the transition to Westlake has gone relatively well.

“A big part of that is Gardner’s involvement,” Carroll said. “He’s been really really supportive of me. My department chair is really amazing, I have awesome coworkers I can go talk to and ask questions. Also the students have been really great.  I think I’ve only had to say the phrase ‘I’m not Herr Gardner’ twice so far, which I think would be self-evident but whatever. Obviously I’ve had a couple of students who are a little bummed that I’m not Herr Gardner, or they thought they were going to have Herr Gardner and then they don’t. Hopefully once the sadness of not having Herr Gardner has passed they will accept me.”

A big difference between Westlake and The Woodlands is how the day is divided between classes.

“The biggest thing I have to get used to is the lack of block scheduling,” Carroll said. “I feel like I’m going super fast, and at my other school we had the block scheduling, so I had 90 minute class periods. Here, it’s a 50 minute class period, so I’ll be like ‘We’re going to do all these things,’ and then it’s like ‘Oh gosh there is no time!’”

Carroll is looking forward to the future of the German program, and hopes to build on it like she did at The Woodlands.

“I just really want people to look into the German program,” Carroll said. “I know a lot of times people are like ‘Well I live in Texas, so I should take Spanish,’ but it seems that you have a lot more opportunities to learn Spanish. It’s a lot harder to find somewhere to learn German. I just want the German program to blossom and I want more people to do German because it’s fun and exciting.”