Wheeling grad’s career plans inspired by biology teacher

By Mina Sabet

 Kathy Konyar and Taran Lichtenberger in June 2018.  Photo provided by Taran Lichtenberger.

Kathy Konyar and Taran Lichtenberger in June 2018. Photo provided by Taran Lichtenberger.

When Wheeling High School graduate Taran Lichtenberger learned of an award recognizing educators, one person immediately came to mind – her high school biology teacher.   

Last spring, Lichtenberger wrote a letter nominating Wheeing’s Kathy Konyar for Northwestern University’s Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award. Konyar was one of five educators from across the country selected for the award.

“No teacher is recognized enough and of all of the teachers I have had, Ms. Konyar is an amazing one and one that goes above and beyond with her work outside the classroom as well as her work inside the classroom,” said Lichtenberger, who graduated from Wheeling in 2014.

Lichtenberger said that Konyar had a lasting impact– Konyar was the teacher who taught her that she could go into biology as a field of research. This inspired Lichtenberger to pursue a dual master’s degree in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern.

Lichtenberger recalled being inspired with Konyar while working on a photography project that focused on Konyar in the classroom.

 Kathy Konyar was one of five educators recognized with Northwestern University’s Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award.  Photo provided by Northwestern University. 

Kathy Konyar was one of five educators recognized with Northwestern University’s Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award. Photo provided by Northwestern University. 

“It was one of my favorite moments because I got to go to a period that she taught and I got to watch her teach and it was amazing to watch her work from an outside point of view as opposed to seeing her when she was teaching me,” Lichtenberger said. “The way she made eye contact with them and made sure they understood was really amazing and how she worked one-on-one with students that were struggling.”

Konyar was recognized at Northwestern’s commencement ceremony in June.  

Lichtenberger is currently working on her master’s degree at a program with the Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Plant Biology and Conservation. She plans to pursue a career in research.

Mina Sabet is an undergraduate at the University of Missouri pursuing a broadcast journalism degree and a John Hersey High School alumna. She interned in the District 214’s Department of Community Engagement and Outreach during the summer of 2018.