Meet our Administrators: Kären Mauer-Smith 

Lakes Principal Karen Mauer Smith

Position: Principal at Lakes High School 

Years in Education: 23 

Years at Clover Park: 12 

Kären Mauer-Smith has been the principal at Lakes High School since 2010. She originally joined the Lakes staff as an assistant principal. Before arriving in Clover Park School District, she began her career in Tacoma as a high school English and History teacher.  

What attracted you to a career in education?

I think many of us had that one teacher who made it look exciting, and for me, that was certainly the case. I had always loved history, and when I finally tried teaching as a student teacher I fell in love with the kids and giving young people opportunities. I never looked back. 

What makes Lakes High School a special place? 

 We are a diverse school and one of our layers of diversity is our military families. They bring such a broad range of experiences. They’re a great example of resilience because families serve too — it’s not just the service members. We want them to know this is home for them and that we’ll take care of them. 

You attended community college before earning your bachelor’s degree at Evergreen, how does that experience help you advise students about their opportunities?

I believe there are lots of ways to get where you want to go. If you can’t do it one way, you shouldn’t think you can’t reach your goal. The plan for me was always to finish school and get the degree – the important thing was THAT I did it, not necessarily that it was a more traditional route. I think that experience is helpful because I can sit down and have a conversation with a student about all the ways you can get to that same spot. 

What has surprised you most about working in education? 

You know, it’s never the same day twice. You have to be a problem solver, someone who can think on their feet. I’m always inspired and humbled, both, by the young people I get to work with – I’m forever an optimist because of them – and by the adults who choose to devote their lives to this. 

What motivates you to do what you do?  

Making sure we live up to our commitment as a community to provide opportunities to all kids. I had advocates in my life, a family who loved me very much, and my daughters had advocates. Every kid needs an advocate, so that is a calling for me. That’s what I choose to do. 

How can you help create promising futures from your position? 

As educators, sometimes, we can see the potential in a young person before they see it in themselves. It kind of becomes our job to hold onto their dream for them until they’re ready for it and you can give it back. That is a progression from when they arrive as a freshman, unsure of what they want to do, to when they’re seniors and feel like they have it all figured out. We hold up a mirror and tell them how amazing they are and what they’re going to accomplish. 

What’s the best part about your job? 

The kids. They’re always the best part. You learn so much from them, and you can see so much potential in them. Even in moments when they’re not at their happiest or their best, they usually have their heart on the table. They inspire me and give me hope for the future. 

What are your hobbies? 

I love reading mysteries and historical non-fiction. I love the Seahawks immensely – I’ve been going to the games with my dad since I was 15 years old, so that’s a bonding thing that we share. My husband and I go camping quite often, and I spend a lot of time with my family and with my girls. 

As an avid reader, what is your favorite book? 

Team of Rivals. It’s about Abraham Lincoln and how he built his cabinet and brought these men together who were not only his rivals but rivals of each other. It shows how he created this powerful cabinet that guided our country through the civil war. It’s a powerful lesson in leadership to me. 

Who was the educator that had the biggest impact on you and why? 

His name is Tom Reynolds, and he was my middle school social studies teacher. He just made everything come alive. He could see you for who you could be and treated you that way. I was actually very fortunate to teach at Foss where he was and teach with him as a team. That was amazing.