Karen McDonald retirement

Karen McDonald, a Texas native, is leaving Williamsport Elementary School and relocating to Georgia, where she plans to continue teaching.

With the kids out on recess, third-grade teacher Karen McDonald’s classroom was quiet one of the last days of school, except for a mysterious scratching noise coming from a white box on the floor.

“Oh, that’s just a turtle that one of the students brought in to show,” McDonald said casually.

Of course, animals aren’t really a rare sight in the classroom of this retiring Williamsport Elementary School teacher. Dubbed the “Chicken Lady” because of her annual spring tradition of hatching chickens in the classroom, McDonald’s projects have introduced the kids to a wide range of animals, including butterflies, bats and frogs.

“I tend to lean toward animal sciences and the kids seem to enjoy it too. I sometimes run into kids I haven’t seen for 10 years and they still remember hatching chickens with me,” McDonald said. “And last year I ran into a student who still had one of the frogs from the tadpoles we used in a classroom project years ago. It was still alive and doing well.”

McDonald’s unconventional teaching methods and outgoing personality have made her well-liked among students as well as co-workers during her 31-year tenure at Williamsport Elementary School.

“Karen is so hands-on; her kids have some fabulous projects to work on,” said assistant principal Sandy Frasch, who has known McDonald for 27 years. “Everything about her is exciting and nothing is dull. She’s one of the most compassionate persons I’ve ever known.”

Although McDonald is retiring from Williamsport, she plans to continue teaching for a few more years after relocating to Georgia at the end of the school year. Her husband, Dave, a teacher and assistant football coach, already moved down last August after accepting a job offer there. McDonald is looking forward to joining him, but said their decision to move was not a given.

“I was probably more gung-ho for it than (Dave) was. But I have mixed feelings,” she said. “This place is very dear to my heart. Leaving is going to be very hard and very emotional. At the same time this is a big adventure for us.”

McDonald and her husband are currently building a home outside Savannah, an area she said is a perfect match for their retirement needs

“I’m a beach person and we’re just 40 minutes from the beach and 45 minutes from Hilton Head,” she said. “It’s centrally located for a lot of places we want to go.”

With no kids of her own, McDonald said she’s spent a lot of her own time and money on the children in her classroom. If there’s one thing she’s hoping that they’ll retain from their time together, it’s the love of lifelong learning.

“I want them to always love coming to school,” she said. “The best part of this job is that every day is different, and being with the kids keeps you young. I’m sometimes the biggest kid of all in the class.”

Jill Gremore, school secretary, said McDonald has been an “outstanding” teacher to work with. “I’ve observed that she’s so caring and nurturing with the students. I’ll greatly miss her and her bubbly personality when she’s gone.”

KAREN MCDONALD

Position: Third-grade teacher at Williamsport Elementary School.

Education: Findley High School, Findley, Ohio; bachelor of science degree in education, Ball State University; master of science degree in education, Purdue Univeristy.

Experience: 1974-76, remedial reading teacher, Indian Lake School System, Ohio; 1976-78, remedial reading teacher, Knox; 1978-2009, second and third grade teacher, remedial reading teacher, Williamsport and Pine Village elementary schools.

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