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home : education : schools May 2, 2016

7/2/2013 2:18:00 PM
Kamrath wraps up a career devoted to teaching
Barbara Kamrath has taught many Sisters kindergartners, and led Sisters Elementary School staff in tough by Jim Cornelius
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Barbara Kamrath has taught many Sisters kindergartners, and led Sisters Elementary School staff in tough by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Barbara Kamrath isn't sure just what she's going to do with herself come next September. By her reckoning, every September for the past 60-odd years, she's been in school, either as a student or as a teacher.

Now she's retired. Really. She is.

"I retired in 2001 from the state of Alaska and came down here," said the Sisters Elementary School teacher and administrator. "This is my second official retirement. According to my kids, I don't know how to do retirement. So I'm gonna show 'em!"

Kamrath got the teaching bug early, growing up in Klamath Falls. In second grade, she contracted mononucleosis and had to stay home from school for weeks. Her teacher made a special effort to see that she didn't fall behind.

"This teacher came to my home once a week and we did school," Kamrath recalled. "I think that was the inspiration there."

Kamrath spent 20 years teaching in Alaska, near Fairbanks. While the school did not operate under the auspices of the Department of Defense, most of the students were from military families. There was a lot of turnover, making teaching a challenge. Kamrath closed her career there as an elementary school principal and decided to move down to Oregon, where her brother-in-law was schools superintendent in Sisters.

"I really wanted to get back to the classroom," she said.

She taught kindergarten here, work she calls her "grand passion."

"I've always just gravitated to that age," she said.

She considers the teaching of reading her great strength.

"That's really where I felt I did my best work," she said.

While Kamrath loves teaching kindergarten above all else, she stepped up when the district needed to fill the administrative role at Sisters Elementary School without hiring a principal. She became the "lead teacher," providing guidance and day-to-day leadership to her colleagues.

"It was a good way to finish up,' she said.

Kamrath sees a profession in the throes of great change. With new methods of evaluation, the implementation of Common Core standards for student learning and a much more data-driven approach to teaching, the profession is not the same one she entered more than 40 years ago.

"It's a much more prescribed education than it used to be," she said. And, she believes, over the next few years, "you're going to see more changes in education than I've seen in 40 years."

The changes will put more demands on teachers and require a significant level of teamwork to develop best practices and provide support to colleagues.

For Kamrath, as for most teachers, the highlights of her career revolve around seeing kids learn. And now she's seen kids she had in kindergarten graduate from high school.

"The kids here have been exceptional," she said.

She also has great respect and affection for the Sisters Elementary School staff she has led for the past couple of years.

"The hardest part is leaving these colleagues," she said.

As might be expected though, she's not leaving the kids entirely behind. She plans to work with kids in some volunteer capacity. After all, it's what she's been doing most of her life.

"It's just been a passion," she said. "It's going to be hard not to do it. I've truly, truly loved what I've done."

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