Karen Balske Tobin is a retired teacher and resource specialist proudly serving as the American Legion Post 147 District 14 historian since 2014. Raised in a military family in Illinois, she learned the value of service and commitment from her Marine Corps veteran grandfather and became a National Honor Society scholar by the time she was in high school. Ms. Tobin attended Illinois State University, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in history before enlisting in the United States Army. She rose to the rank of first lieutenant, directing a mission before being selected to attend the United States Women’s Army Corps School at Fort McClellan to complete further officer training coursework. She served on active duty in the United States Army for nearly two years before being transferred to the United States Army Reserves, but her passion for the military and dedication to service remained throughout her life.
After transferring to the United States Army Reserves, Ms. Tobin continued her studies with a focus on teaching. A part of her motivation came from her daughter. The new parent of a daughter with a hearing impairment, Ms. Tobin felt qualified to teach, but did not know how to support children with learning disabilities or sensory-processing disorders. She decided to return to school, enrolling at Fresno Pacific College, where she was awarded a master’s degree in language arts and educational administration in 1973. She began teaching for Fresno County Schools in 1980, working at both the Orange Center and at Tranquility High School before leaving the district in 1982.
In 1984, Ms. Tobin returned to teaching as a resource specialist for Clovis Unified School District. She would remain in the district until her retirement from teaching in 2014, supporting the diverse educational needs of students of all ages and grade levels with a particular focus on working with middle-grades learners. In 2014, she accepted her current position with the American Legion, where she is responsible for recording narratives and taking photos of all group activities, reporting news to members, and completing binders of official historical record for both Post 147 and District 14. She was offered the role due to her dual backgrounds in history and teaching and has been widely celebrated for her work as historian, earning state-level awards after just a year in the post.
Ms. Tobin was the winner of the 2016 California State Binder Competition as well as the 2016 American Legion Historian Book Contest, and she continued her run when she was named the 2017 American Legion Cecil Cox Post #147 Legionnaire of the Year. While she considers her time in the military and her time as an educator to be the highlights of her career, she is proud to be a member of the American Legion and plans to continue her work documenting organizational activities for many years to come. In her leisure time, Ms. Tobin plays clarinet, is an active volunteer with Toys for Tots, area rodeo groups, and projects benefiting veterans of the United States Marine Corps, and enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, and two grandchildren.