From Park Student to Half of Friends Power Couple: Josh Carlin

The History teacher and 12th grade dean is now an institution at Friends. But he, and Athletic Director Kara Carlin, met as teens while attending our rival school.
History teacher and 12th grade dean Josh Carlin mugs for the camera in his office on Senior Hall.
History teacher and 12th grade dean Josh Carlin mugs for the camera in his office on Senior Hall.
Alexandra Dineen

It may shock the generations of students who have had him as a teacher. But Josh Carlin, history teacher and 12th grade dean at Friends School, was once a Park School Bruin. 

Carlin grew up playing soccer, basketball, and lacrosse while attending Friends’ rival, The Park School of Baltimore. His now-wife Kara was just one grade below him.

Kara’s cousin Amanda was one of Carlin’s best friends at Park.

“She was Amanda’s little cousin who was always running around,” he remembers. “In middle school, my friends and her friends were friendly.” 

At first, Carlin wasn’t thinking about Kara (now Ms. Carlin) as someone he liked. But as they both got older, that began to change. 

“I think it was in 9th grade when I really started paying attention to her,” he says.

Now Friends School’s Athletic Director and 12th grade dean respectively, Kara and Josh Carlin met as teenagers at our rival school. (Courtesy of Josh Carlin)

Ms. Carlin also liked him, and when she was in 8th grade and he was in 9th, they began dating. Once Carlin got his driver’s license his sophomore year, she found him even more appealing.  

“We were both athletes. He was really kind,” she says. “And he drove and I didn’t.” 

As their love grew, Carlin was also discovering another love – for history.

Butch Ashman, one of Carlin’s high school history teachers, got him interested in history. Ashman was very frank with his class, which Carlin admired.

“He was always honest with us,” Carlin says. “He was serious, but all of us worshiped the ground that he walked. We loved him.” 

The Carlins continued dating throughout high school. They loved spending time together and wanted to pursue their relationship in college. 

So together they headed to Franklin and Marshall College. There, Ms. Carlin played field hockey and lacrosse. Carlin pursued his passion for history, and loved to watch and support her from the stands.

In 2000, a few years after graduation, they married. Their first daughter Bryce followed, then their second daughter Quinn. 

Carlin knew he wanted to teach high school. And even though he went to Park his whole life, he was ready for a change. When he was a student at Park, he says, he thought the school wasn’t diverse enough, and it hadn’t changed much when he was applying for jobs. In those days, he says, he felt Friends had made more progress in that regard. 

So in 2001, Carlin began his career at Friends as the Associate Director of Admissions. It wasn’t teaching History, but he knew he had to start somewhere. 

For a while, people mostly thought of Carlin as the “admissions guy,” according to the admissions office. This was something he wanted to change. 

“I think the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was, the Upper School saw me as an admissions guy and they didn’t really see me as a teacher.”

After a few years, former Upper School Principal Steve McManus allowed Carlin to teach. 

“I owe Mr. McManus everything professionally,” says Carlin. “He means the world to me, and I miss him a lot.”

McManus had a substantial impact on Carlin – as did Jon Garman, who retired in 2023 from being a Friends history teacher and interim Upper School principal. Garman is another of Carlin’s role models. He says whenever he needs advice or someone to listen to, he calls Garman. 

“I call Mr. Garman probably the most, actually, ’cause he’s retired and has nothing to do,” Carlin jokes. “He’s just sitting on the beach.” 

Currently, Carlin is a 9th grade history teacher and 12th grade dean. 

Lulu Mickle class of ‘25, had Carlin in 9th grade. But she has known him far longer, because her father, John Watt, is a middle school math teacher.  

According to Lulu, Carlin has always been an easy person to interact with. 

“He’s always been super funny. He’s a jokester. He’s super nice,” she says. “He’s been one of my favorite teachers, probably, that I’ve had so far in my high school years.”

In Carlin’s class, Mickle was allowed to complete assignments in her own unique way, using creative ways of thinking. Sometimes, he asked the class to complete “choice boards,” which allowed students to research a topic they were interested in. 

“It was a super fun environment. Mr. Carlin was really nice and understanding. I like the way he did his projects,” she says. “It gave you the chance to be super creative and do things your own way.”

Carlin says that working at Friends changed his life. Here, he has been able to listen to different perspectives, and has made a strong bond with students and faculty. Before coming here, he says, he hadn’t fully figured himself out.

“I don’t think I gave much thought to politics – to my own political ideology,” he says. “I think just being here, and being exposed to so many things on a daily basis, really has helped me figure out who I am, in a very good way.”

Years from now, Carlin says, he hopes he will be remembered as a teacher whom students could trust and love, and “just as someone who loved being around the students.” 

Carlin says Friends holds a special place in his heart. 

“I have no intention of ever leaving Friends,” he says. “But even if I did, no school could ever be as important to me as this one.”

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