Hello. My name is Karen Kucharski, and I teach 4th grade here at Crocker Highlands. I student taught here in 1999 with Anna Henry and Carrie Oretsky. I was hired the following year for a fourth grade position and have been in Room 12 since the ‘00-’01 school year. This is my 17th year at Crocker!
I graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1978, four years out of high school. I tried to become a teacher then, but those were the days of disastrous cuts in spending for education in our state, so I ended up saving the teaching dream for my middle years. I worked in retail, pursued my art and took care of my young daughter. As I was nearing 40, my dreams of helping children could no longer be ignored, so I went back to school for my teaching credential. I was the only person in my entire program who wanted to teach in an urban environment. I asked to come to Oakland and have been very happy here. In 2009, I sold my home in Orinda (where I’d lived for 26 years) and moved to Oakland so I could be closer to the Crocker community and my former students.
I have a degree in English literature and am a huge history buff. I’ve stayed in fourth grade all these years to introduce students to California history and to foster an interest in current events. I am very proud that many of my students have gone on to study history and political science due to their awakening in fourth grade. I expose my students to many of California’s landmarks and historical sites so they can take ownership of their state early on. We begin in September with the geography of the state, followed by the native Californians. By year’s end, I’ve taught them about World War II and why 39 million people want to live here. In fourth grade, we also take a three day, two night field trip to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School and live the lives of the gold seekers!
I am very proud of the literature I introduce to my students while they are with me. We do 15 novel studies during the year, as well as many read alouds. I read many genres, my favorite being historical fiction. I’ve taught fourth grade math so long I’m pretty sure I do fractions in my sleep! I used to teach science as well, but we’ve decided as a school to have Ms. Bernstein do all the science, and I do all the social studies for fourth grade. It has worked out very well for the students rotating between classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Due to the fact that I had a challenging childhood, I have truly loved being an elementary school teacher. I am very sensitive to the individual and always try to develop a relationship with each of my students. I give my own elementary school teachers credit for giving me the drive and ambition to get through my early years.
I am coming to the end of my career and look forward to writing historical fiction novels for fourth graders in my Golden Years. I am currently planning to retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year and relocate to Portland, Oregon where it is much easier to survive on a retirement income!