Kindergarten marks an important time in a child's life. For many, it's an introduction to the education system and their first time away from home.

Karen Gordon ensures that her young students get on the right track, right away. The day's agenda on her classroom's dry erase board is quite robust, featuring 20 items that range from handwriting, books and math, to calendar, play and gym.

"Kindergarten, to me, is magical," Gordon expressed.

She's been been teaching this grade at Northwood ABC Elementary for the last 12 years.

“I value this special time of being little," she said. "These guys are still five, even though they can do a lot. They’re five and six, so they need to explore, they’re curious.”

Gordon enjoys the challenge of welcoming children to the school experience, and understand it carries great responsibility. Her standards are lofty and her students are eager to accept the challenges.

“Kindergarteners are expected to learn a lot now," she explained. "They’re expected to learn to read and add, and to write a sentence […] But they also need to learn how to be at school, they need to learn how to follow rules and just what it’s like to be in a community.”

Gordon has created that community in her classroom and demonstrates a sense of community beyond the classroom through volunteer work. She works with The Children's Lunchbox and 100+ Women Who Care.

 

Gordon knows the formula for success in life and in the classroom and uses that formula every day.

“It’s this balance of challenge, so I’ll give them [a task] that's a little harder, and then support. Challenge and support," she explained. "And then taking what we are learning and finding ways to tuck it in through the day."

The balance of fun tasks with the "have-to's" is one of the life lessons Gordon's students learn daily.

“I love working with kids," she said. "My initial thought was I wanted to be a special ed teacher."

Gordon, who has a master's degree in learning disabilities, said she wanted to do the work to solve the puzzle of why kids are struggling.”

Gordon loves her students, their families and their community.

“I’ve only taught kindergarten in Title I schools. We have a big diversity in our schools," she said with pride. "Kids from a lot of different cultures and experiences and I love it because they just are buddies with everyone. It’s just that there’s a natural comfort here.”

It's a comfort Gordon can provide and a comfort she feels herself, an assurance that she's right where she needs to be.

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