Likens creating concerned citizens and students

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Likens creating concerned citizens and students

Could it be more fitting? Mr. Colin Likens pictured besides the map of Pennsylvania.

Could it be more fitting? Mr. Colin Likens pictured besides the map of Pennsylvania.

Jillian Phillips

Could it be more fitting? Mr. Colin Likens pictured besides the map of Pennsylvania.

Jillian Phillips

Jillian Phillips

Could it be more fitting? Mr. Colin Likens pictured besides the map of Pennsylvania.

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“I became a teacher because I care about helping people become good citizens.”

Mr. Colin Likens started his teaching career at North Penn High School in 1993, making this his 25th year of teaching his passion: social studies.

“I grew up in Bucks County, Fairless Hills, and I went to Pennsbury High School. I graduated there in 1989 and went off to Penn State to get my teaching degree and then came back here and got into student teaching in Hatboro Horsham school district and got a job here at North Penn immediately after graduation,” explained Likens.

Growing up, social studies was always one of the most important aspects of Likens’ life.

“Social studies was always the area that was the most interesting and the most I cared about. Issues, politics, concerns with the world. I probably first got interested in politics more as a matter of environmentalism as a way to help the environment. A lot of that is usually what you talk about in your home, and in my family we talked about politics, talked about issues so it made sense that I was eager to talk about it in school,” said Likens.

After graduating high school, Likens planned on attending Penn State and pursuing a major in business. But it was his passion, values, and ambitions that led him to become one of North Penn High School’s social studies department’s most valued teachers.

“I increasingly began to think about things I thought needed to be fixed in the world, and then started to think about politics and got more into activism, political action, groups. When I think of that kind of work I think ‘well, you’re going to need citizens who care about what’s going on in order to do any good as an activist’,” explained Likens.

While Likens loves teaching American government, one of his favorite things about teaching is the opportunity he is given to change a student’s negative or stressed mindset into a positive one.

“I listen to a lot of people about the kind of work they do every day, and I think a lot of work is important. In many times people in other jobs on a given time or day might not feel the specific work or task is important. I feel like every day you’re in contact with other people, and my job is to help those students learn, help them grow and be better kinder people, as well as be better citizens. Even if it’s just trying to help them have a better day at school so that they come to school with optimism,” said Likens.

When he was a new teacher, Likens faced one of the most common challenges: perfectionism.

“There is a strong goal for perfectionism that can become really exhausting. Learning how to prioritize and learning how to be realistic about what your goal setting should be and still trying to do something good is a hard thing to balance,” explained Likens.

But none of that compares to the frightening challenge of coming out as gay in a society that wasn’t nearly as accepting as today’s world.

“The world has changed a lot since the early 90’s since I started. I started in 1993. Although I knew I was gay, I wasn’t confident that was safe at school. Times were different enough that you just didn’t know where you were safe. Therefore, the logical thing was to be defensive and scared everywhere. That definitely was hard for a long, long period of time. I tend to be very cautious in trying to follow standards and professionalism and so I held back on that. It was definitely exhausting,” shared Likens.

With many supportive colleagues and friends, Likens was able to come out and happily remain his true self within his classroom. Today, Likens is challenged to keep his students engaged in important discussions about the world.

“I feel like there’s a lot that the world needs from our citizens and I worry that we’re not doing enough. I understand that it’s completely natural for a young person in a high school aged to be focused on finding their own identity, and building relationships, and trying to cope with the extra challenges of growing up. My questions about being a better citizen, reforming the government, saving the world. I guess the challenge is to keep trying and trying to be that cheerleader for students as a citizen, citizen cheerleader,” said Likens.

At the end of the day, Likens strives to help his students learn, but also positively impact each and every one of them.

“I often think the most important things in life are more like a marathon than a sprint. You’ve got to have endurance, persistent, be there day after day doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s that part where I’ve tried to be supportive to my colleagues, tried to be a valuable part of the school community, I’ve tried to be positive and encouraging to students year after year. It’s more of sort of a way of being. I’m still willing to get up every day and roll the stone up the hill!” Likens chuckled.

Outside of school Likens sets time to spend with his close circle of friends. When the weather is nice, Likens enjoys cruising around and driving on some scenic routes.

“The car I come to school is an old station wagon, 41 years old. I also have a 1973 Cadillac convertible. Because that one’s special, it only goes out when the weather is nice. I’ve always loved big American cars,” Likens said.

One may also find Likens in the kitchen, where he spends time learning and preparing European cuisine.

“I’ve been trying to learn more about how to make pasta from scratch. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I don’t bake much anymore because my husband does better than I do,” Likens said with a smile.

Travelling is another one of Likens’ favorite pastimes. Whether it be within the country or outside of the country, Likens is always willing to explore the world.

“We were in Bologna, Italy last summer and Bologna was just gorgeous and a good food city too so that was a lot of fun. Everywhere in Italy was just a delight. I really liked Madrid. Within the states, I’ve been able to drive across country a couple of times. I’ve done it once by myself in 1997 and once with my husband in 2003. The Red Rocks area of the southwest and Utah area are just gorgeous,” reflected Likens.

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