Teacher of the Month: ‘Children need time to be kids’
Karen Van Vooren fell in love with kindergarten 30 years ago and still loves her job at Harriet Bishop Elementary School. She is the Post Bulletin’s Teacher of the Month for October.
Family: I am married to Kevin. We have two children, Laura Van Vooren (Rochester), Ben Van Vooren (Eagan), his wife, Courtney, and our new granddaughter, Amelia.
(Side note: My identical twin, Kathy Bauman, is a high school German teacher in Rochester. This often confuses people.)
Best part or favorite part of my day?
The entire day in kindergarten is so busy, but I do love seeing the happy, eager smiles as they enter my classroom. My students always have something fun or important to tell me. Their stories or messages can be quite comical or serious, but it is important to them that I know. We become a kindergarten family quickly.
What or who inspired you to become a teacher?
As I grew up, I was always involved in group activities, such as church, sports, music and 4-H. I loved helping the younger members and doing activities with my nieces and nephews. I was interested in history and social studies, so I was thinking I would teach at the intermediate grade level. And then I fell in love with kindergarten.
Thirty years later, I still really enjoy this age group. I continue to be inspired by my talented colleagues. There are such amazing things happening in our schools.
What is your teaching philosophy?
The quote “Childhood should be a journey, not a race!” summarizes my personal viewpoint. Children need time to be kids. Each child’s learning timetable is unique. I plan for that when I design my lessons for 20 young students.
Children differ greatly on when they learn to crawl, walk, and talk; this range of development applies to many other aspects in their lives. It is important to have a safe, happy place to try new things.
The academic expectations for kindergarten students has increased significantly since I began teaching, but the kids are remarkable.
What was the most memorable thing that happened in your classroom?
There are many stories, but this happened recently and is school-related.
I live in the neighborhood where I teach. A young student at my school rang the doorbell on Halloween for trick or treating. He said, “Do you know that you look like a kindergarten teacher at my school?”
I replied that I am a kindergarten teacher at his school. He paused, gave it some thought and said “ I don’t think so. She lives at school.”