Dr. Karen Ritter was named Principal of Niles West in July, 2019. She has an interest in practices in positive psychology and developing a positive school culture. 

Prior to her arrival at Niles West, she was an Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at East Leyden High School from 2012-2019. Her accomplishments at East Leyden include nearly closing the opportunity and achievement gap in Advanced Placement courses, especially for underrepresented students. Dr. Ritter is a champion for equitable access in education, and was featured in a PBS Newshour segment for shadowing a student for a day, in order to develop empathy and advocate for students marginalized by school policies and procedures. 

Dr. Ritter has also worked as an Assistant Principal at Mather High School from 2007-2012 and as a French teacher at Taft High School from 1996-2007, both in Chicago Public Schools. During her teaching career at Taft High School, Dr. Ritter was the recipient of a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Scholarship and taught English to French-speaking students in Dakar, Senegal during the 1998-1999 school year. Dr. Ritter embraces the idea of Senegalese teranga, the Wolof word meaning hospitality or welcoming generosity, a core value in Senegalese culture.  

Dr. Ritter earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in the Teaching of French in 1995 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While a student there, she also studied abroad in Paris, France for a year at the Université Paris-Sorbonne. She earned her Master of Education degree in General Administration from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and her Doctorate of Education in Administration and Supervision with Superintendent endorsement from Loyola University Chicago in 2018. Her dissertation was titled Are you a H.E.R.O.?: A mixed methods study of the relationship between Illinois principals’ psychological capital and the school’s culture. 

Dr. Ritter currently lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and 6 backyard chickens. She loves gardening, traveling, reading, and learning about other cultures.