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Teacher Appreciation: Sra. Kohlhaas

Señora Kohlhaas is a Spanish teacher and has been in the district for 15 years. She has been teaching for 17 years in both Michigan and North Carolina. She grew up in Grand Rapids, attended Catholic Central High School, class of 1994, and had her eyes set on being a veterinarian. During her time at Michigan State, she decided to study abroad in Spain. Her parents encouraged her to continue with Spanish. “Then my parents said I had to do something with it, and I said ‘I’ll be a Spanish teacher!’”

Ms. Kohlhaas enjoys collecting Starbucks mugs from different places. She loved when Jill Pierangeli and myself brought her a mug from our trip to South Carolina during spring break. “Sometimes kids show up and I find these Starbucks mugs on my desk and I’m like, ‘Aw that’s so sweet’” she said. She loves to find her students interacting among themselves to others while she sits at her desk during her prep hour. She pointed out Katie Noom in particular, who will go out of her way and introduce herself.

She is known by her students for being well-traveled and well-versed in different cultures. She says that the coolest place she has visited would be the St. Charles bridge in Prague. She recalls her recent travels to Paris and visiting the Notre Dame, which famously caught ablaze just a few weeks ago. “That’s just very awe-inspiring because you think it’s very small and then you stand before it.” She enjoyed experiencing Spanish culture and living in a house with seven other people and only one bathroom. However, she has her eyes set on Asia next. “I’d like to do more, maybe, visiting countries in Asia because Europe is just very similar to here,” she says. As for her infamous stories of her sleeping arrangements, she says that the weirdest place she slept was in a park on the ground without blankets in Pamplona, Spain. “I would never do that now, but you should experience it one time.”

photograph of a man and a woman posing in front of a waterway
Ms. Kohlhaas and her husband in Paris, France this past April.

Bradley Cooper is her favorite actor, but in a movie about her life, she would want a mix of Lady Gaga and a young Julianne Moore. “I want to be a singer. So, if I could sing like Lady Gaga and just belt it out,  I would sing all the time because I think she’s amazing. So I kind of want to alter Khrista. A little bit. I think that would be fun. I think maybe like a younger Julianne Moore because of the red hair. Because I do have highlights in the front. But she would have to be a little bit younger,” she tells me. “Her with Lady Gaga’s voice. I would be very excited. And I would sing all of my lessons.”

The least favorite part of her job is the grading. “I don’t mind grading, it’s just that there’s so much.” With Spanish, she says, she needs to grade speaking, recordings, and short answers often. The grading doesn’t end at the end of the school day, either. Many nights she spends her time at home, listening over students recordings and checking their work. “You guys want college credit, and it’s our job to get you to that level,” she says. “If I didn’t have to grade it would be awesome.”

Her one piece of advice to students would be to try different things after high school. “Get out of your comfort zone, because I was totally the person who was comfortable. Take a risk — it’s fine. You’ll be fine. There will always be someone who will be there for you.”