Educator of the Week - Karen Hankins

Karen Hankins, 4th Grade Teacher at Gaffney Lane Elementary in Oregon City , Oregon

Nominated by Addie Contreras (student)

In Addie's Words:

Mrs. Hankins is the most amazing understanding teacher you'll ever meet, for millions of reasons! She’s kind and wants everybody to grow up and have an amazing life.  She’s also very patient.  I have some kids in my class that have trouble learning things, but Mrs. Hankins is always is open to help them. For example, in math, she uses kid’s names in story problems, it's so much fun! She also is a science girl. Mrs. Hankins loves learning about space and geotechnical engineers. She does interesting science experiments for the whole class to enjoy! Mrs. Hankins use to have us with kindness videos so we could be a positive class. She also plays the drum at assemblies.  That’s why Mrs. Hankins is the most awesome teacher in the whole entire solar system! Thank you for inspiring positive energy.

Notes from Addie's Mom, Kelly Primasing

From my point of view as a parent, Mrs. Hankins is incredible because she gets to know each student and their individual needs. She works with the student to focus on positive work and ensures everyone truly understand the process (instead of just getting the right answer). She communicates with parents via notes or emails and ensures that everyone is responsible for learning in the classroom. She is also very active in all the school activities (Bingo night, field day etc.).

Congrats, Karen, from all of us at K103! Get to know Karen Hankins:

What inspired you to become an educator?

I always wanted to become a teacher, because I was surrounded by great teachers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t convinced I could become one, because I didn’t really believe in myself. It all seemed out of reach for me. Then, almost out of nowhere it seemed, the P.E.O. sisterhood and Cottey College offered me amazing scholarships. I knew opportunities like that didn’t happen often, so I went for it. While in my first term, a professor, Dr. Emery, pulled me aside to make sure I knew he believed in me, that I was exactly where I belonged, and that he expected me to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher. He was really tough, honest, and not one to praise without merit, so I believed him. My life was changed by a teacher. If he could convince me to pursue my dream, I hoped I could convince others, too.

What do you like most about teaching?

I like the kids, of course! Spending each day with kids is the best. They’re fun and entertaining. They say and do the coolest, kindest, and the goofiest things. Every day I laugh about something. A boy raised his hand in the middle of math to ask me if I went to college for 4 years. I told him that I actually went for 7. He slowly nodded so sympathetically and replied, “You got held back?” The mother volunteer sitting at my desk was gasping for breath, laughing at my expense. Another time, a new girl enrolled on the day of our Harvest Festival. One of my sweet students thought to get her phone number and address so she could pick her up and take her to the festival since the new girl didn’t know anyone. I hadn’t thought of that! It was so important to her than our new friend be included. Kids are awesome.

What has changed the most since you began your career in education?

One thing I feel has changed is the rigor of the curriculum. We teach many concepts to 3rd and 4th graders that used to be taught to 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, like some of the fractions and decimals concepts in math, and comparing articles using text evidence in reading. Last week, my own 7th grader came home with a poem to analyze by including textual evidence from the poet’s own biography. I remember completing that same assignment myself in 10th grade. The learning that students are achieving is pretty impressive!

What would you like parents to know about your job?

I’d like parents to know that I love their children. I honestly do. I’m a mom. I get how scary it can be to send your child off into the world without you. The biggest part of my heart walks up to the middle school every morning and I have to trust his teachers to encourage his love of learning and keep him safe. I get it.

Share a favorite story about your years in education.

I had a student who really struggled to find success in math, reading, and writing. He tried harder than most and didn’t give up. He was searching for his inner gifts and working so hard. One day we were painting. I stopped at his desk and mentioned that it appeared to me that he had found a talent that he may want to pursue. He was quiet and thoughtful. By the end of that week, I had overheard this excited student telling others about his new hobby of art. He had learned about some painters and had a new sketch pad on his desk. He was so alive. I think our society needs to remember that our students are not all the same. They’re all differently working to achieve. They’re all learning at their own levels, yet they’re all moving forward.

Each week during the school year, K103 and Concordia University will honor a local educator.  Each week, our honored educator receives:

  • $103 Gift Card for Classroom School Supplies
  • The Crystal Apple Award
  • A Concordia University Continuing Education Scholarship

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