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Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

For Likens, the rest is History

Colin+Likens+guiding+his+students+through+their+end-of-year+project.
Kate Miller
Colin Likens guiding his students through their end-of-year project.

North Penn High School is officially history for APUSH and American Government teacher Mr. Colin Likens.

After spending over 30 years at North Penn High School, Likens announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

“I’m ending my 31st year here, so I started in the fall of 1993,” Likens said.

Likens studied education at Penn State in the early 90s where he discovered North Penn High School through a job fair.

“I had finished my student teaching from Penn State in the spring of 1993 and there was a career fair back at State College that North Penn participated in,” Likens explained.

Likens quickly hit it off with North Penn’s HR Director and was invited to come to Lansdale for an in person interview.

“Based on that brief experience at the career fair, North Penn invited me to an all day interview that took place around late June early July in the summer of 1993, which is unusual to have an all day interview process,” Likens remarked.

Although Likens knew getting his first job wouldn’t be easy, he never expected anything as extensive and competitive as the interview process he would soon take part in.

“There were about 40 or 50 of us included and I think that we went to one of the school buildings because we were all being considered for the same position. I remember the district telling us a lot about what they were trying to achieve and there was a formal interview part of that process as well,” Likens explained. “It was a pretty impressive commitment on the part of the district, finding the kind of people they wanted, it was exciting to see that as an applicant.”

Although Likens has fallen in love with educating young minds, he didn’t begin his journey on a teaching path.

It’s not something I ever imagined as a path in high school, you know I liked social studies, but I never thought about pursuing anything related to history or politics as a career,”

— Colin Likens

“It’s not something I ever imagined as a path in high school, you know I liked social studies, but I never thought about pursuing anything related to history or politics as a career,”

Likens has always known that his purpose in life was to help people, he just had to decide which avenue he was going to take.

“When I was a high school and college student I asked myself what I could do that would be valuable and what would make a meaningful contribution in the world. Young people struggle to figure out what they want to do and where they fit in, and I feel like you partly think of career by what the people around you are doing, so I thought I would be going into business or being a stockbroker,” Likens said. “I kept thinking ‘Well what could I do to make the world a better place?’ and everything I thought about only works if there are good citizens and so increasingly I thought ‘Well if we need good citizens, maybe my job should be to help make good citizens.”

What excited Likens most about working at North Penn was its high academic ranking and the potential for growth within the district.

“When I got hired here, it was exciting and inspiring. North Penn was as good as any private school that a student could hope to go to, we were recognized as a national school of excellence by the department of education. We were trying a new innovative curriculum to try and help students that weren’t college bound become ready,” Likens shared.

One of Likens’ biggest concerns was coming out to his friends and colleagues at North Penn and how others would handle it.

“Particularly schools are a little more traditional as institutions, so being out as a teacher seemed unwise. It wasn’t that I was afraid that I would get in trouble because of it, it just didn’t seem like it would be a welcome thing or make my work and the work of the school better,” Likens shared.

One of Likens’ fondest memories is one that he shared with another member of the Social Studies Department, Mr. Stephen Henry.

“There were coworkers that knew because I was close with them and they were my friends, and there were others that I was confident knew, but it was unspoken. It wasn’t something I had gained the confidence that it was a good idea to be completely open about. It was Mr. Steve Henry that one day came to me, because we were having a get-together as the Social Studies Department. At that time I was in a long term relationship, because we weren’t legally allowed to be married yet. Steve basically came to me and acknowledged that I had never been out to him and so he said ‘I don’t really know if you want to talk about this situation, but Gene is more than welcome to come,” Likens remarked. “I always cherished him taking the steps to do that for me.”

Likens has developed many incredible relationships at North Penn which have shaped him into who he is today as both an educator and a friend.

“Mrs. Jankowski is my PLC partner and AP and she’s always holding me accountable to make sure I’m pushing our kids to do hard enough work. Mrs. Kavalow is always looking out for me to make sure I’m okay, so there are lots of friendships that are cherished,” Likens said.

Likens works his hardest everyday, not only for the students he’s teaching, but to maintain that high standard he has worked so hard to achieve for North Penn.

“I think we have a tradition of excellence, and I hope I’ve contributed to that. Over my career, I feel that there have been plenty of times I have been inspired to work harder, not just for the students I have, but to measure up to the worthiness of the colleagues I have,”

— Colin Likens

“I think we have a tradition of excellence, and I hope I’ve contributed to that. Over my career, I feel that there have been plenty of times I have been inspired to work harder, not just for the students I have, but to measure up to the worthiness of the colleagues I have,” Likens shared.

Over the past 31 years, Likens has seen tremendous changes In North Penn High School, from how kids act to the clothes they wear.

“Society has become less formal and some of the things we’ve tried to focus on in school have changed because of that. When I started here they spent a lot of time enforcing a fingertip rule and we had a no hat rule,” Likens explained. “There was a lot of expectation for that, but it also felt like the right thing to do.”

Another place where Likens has seen a lot of change is in the classroom, especially in the realm of technology.

“I’ve always been a technological skeptic,” Likens claimed. “I personally like the personal connections more and I have not found enough value in those things to spend my time on them.”

As Likens reflects back on the time he spent at North Penn he recognizes that North Penn students have taught him just as much as he’s taught them.

“In a single word, I think it’s a measure of empathy. Some young people are still struggling to have the good inside of them acknowledged, I believe it’s there and I hope they see it in themselves, but it’s not always easy for them to see,” Likens explained. “Part of my job is to look closely and try to find and encourage the good in each person. I hope that encourages them to emphasize those parts of themselves.”

Likens has not only built strong relationships with his colleagues, but the many many students he has taught over the past 30 years.

“I feel highly confident students have worked harder to learn things at times, not because they were excited to learn the material, but out of a mixture of respect and friendliness,” Likens shared. “The relationship you build can often get people to cooperate with you on something, even if they aren’t excited about the goal.”

Likens and his husband are retiring together and plan on spending the next few years traveling around the globe.

“For the next several years, my husband and I plan on doing a lot of traveling. A week after the school year ends, my husband and I are traveling to Italy for five weeks and we go to Hawaii in the fall,” Likens shared.

Likens has thoroughly enjoyed his time at North Penn High School and will continue to look back fondly on his memories here for years to come.

“I feel like a lot of the work we do in Social Studies is a little like Johnny Appleseed. You go through planting the seeds, but you never get to see the trees grow,” Likens said. “I hope students are happy with the experience they’ve had in my room.”

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