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home : education : schools April 29, 2016

5/6/2014 12:12:00 PM
Ritchie retires from Sisters schools
Karen Ritchie has come to the end of a fruitful career. photo by Jim Cornelius
+ click to enlarge
Karen Ritchie has come to the end of a fruitful career. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Sixteen classes of kindergartners have passed through the doors of Karen Ritchie's classroom at Sisters Elementary School. Many of those have now graduated from Sisters High School and are now adults.

After all those years of getting kids in Sisters off to a strong start in school, Mrs. Ritchie is retiring to spend time with her son and his family in Florida.

Ritchie started teaching first grade right out of college, then stepped away for years as she raised her children.

"When I decided to go back into teaching, I knew this is where I wanted to be," she said.

She is certified for K-9, but the available opening in Sisters was for a kindergarten teacher, so that's what she took - and that's where she stayed.

"I love little kids," she said. "They're so fresh and adorable, and they respond so well to songs and art - not to mention ABCs and 123s."

They're also challenging, and keep a teacher constantly on the go.

"You need to monitor constantly with little ones," Ritchie said. "It just comes with the age. I mean this in the kindest way: I compare little children to puppies."

So, it takes a lot of energy to be a kindergarten teacher.

One of Ritchie's favorite activities with her students was art, where those high-energy, easily distracted kids would suddenly become intensely focused. And teaching reading was a beautiful experience.

"I think learning to read is a miracle," she said, reflecting on the delight of a child when he or she suddenly "gets it" and discovers that critical capability.

Ritchie's relationships with her colleagues - Cathy Downing, Katie Estvold, Barb Kamrath - are a highlight of her career.

The last several years were marked by a strong partnership with Kamrath, who herself retired a year ago.

"We were just famous together, you know," said Ritchie.

Ritchie expects that she'll volunteer in her granddaughter's school, and she'll pursue her interest in watercolor painting, photography and reading.

And, she says, she'll "sleep till 7."

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