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Karen King Crowned 'Everyday Hero'



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Karen King Crowned ‘Everyday Hero’

By Eliza Hallabeck

Both Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson and Reed Intermediate School Principal Sharon Epple wanted to share a news announcement at the Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, March 1: Reed Intermediate fifth grade teacher Karen King has been named an American Federation of Teachers’ Everyday Hero.

The announcement came after a finalist round on the American Federation of Teachers’ website, where members of the public were asked to vote for the teacher in a designated region who exemplified the qualities of an Everyday Hero.

Other nominated teachers in Ms King’s division were Hope Evantoff of Providence, R.I., Martha Hanley of Wayne, N.Y., Andrea Harrison of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and Sharon Wingfield of Chicago.

Ms King was nominated for the Everyday Hero program by fellow fifth grade teacher Jill Beaudry.

“I’m just thrilled for Karen,” said Mrs Beaudry. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.”

On Monday, February 28, Mrs Beaudry said Ms King brought in two dozen yellow tulips as a gift to her nominator.

“Is that for me?” Mrs Beaudry said she replied. Ms King confirmed the flowers were for Mrs Beaudry for bringing something special to Reed Intermediate School.

Then Mrs Beaudry’s cluster partner, Julie Shull, asked whether Ms King had heard any news about the Everyday Hero contest yet.

“I won,” Ms King said, according to Mrs Beaudry.

Mrs Beaudry says the three women erupted in screams and began jumping on the spot. Later, when the news was announced at Reed over the loudspeaker, Mrs Beaudry said everyone cheered.

“When they say one person can make a difference, they really mean it,” said Mrs Beaudry, reflecting on all that Ms King accomplishes.

Asked where she draws strength and inspiration, Ms King said a man named Padraig Power from Ireland first made her want to be a hero.

While Mr Power works in Ireland, in his spare time, when Ms King met him, he was working to collect medical supplies for a hospital in Kosovo. During his interaction with the hospital, Mr Power eventually met up with students who were attending school in tents, due to their school burning down. He had pencils that had been collected, and gave them to the students. A ceremony was held by the school for the occasion.

Over lunch in Ireland, Mr Power shared a photo of the ceremony with Ms King. She says once she saw it, she had a moment when she knew she wanted to help people in the way Mr Power was helping people.

On her return to Reed that school year, the Pencils for Peace program was organized. The program went on to raise roughly 29,000 pencils and other school supplies to be sent to Shala, Kosovo.

Standing in front of her students, “I said it. I said I wanted to be like Padraig Power, and now I am like Padraig Power.”

To Ms King, Mr Power epitomizes what a hero is.

After news got out about Ms King’s nomination to be an American Federation of Teachers Everyday Hero, Ms King says she received a call from the television game show Minute To Win It on NBS. She was informed the show is looking for people for next season who are looking to raise money for a cause.

Ms King is now setting up a team audition tape with fellow Reed teacher Pam Kohn.

When the news spread through town that Ms King had made it to the finalist round, responses from teachers started coming through via e-mail. Some noted no surprise at Ms King being a hero, because they always thought she was one; others expressed appreciation for her.

Ms King expressed how lucky she is to be a teacher working at Reed Intermediate School in the Newtown Public School District.

“The teachers are heroes, period,” said Ms King at the time. “I’m just one of a crowd.”

When she first got the call from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) announcing her selection as a semifinalist, Ms King almost hung up. She was unaware a conversation she had a few months earlier with Mrs Beaudry was an interview of sorts. Mrs Beaudry went on to use that conversation as the basis for her nomination letter for Ms King in the Everyday Hero program.

Ms King’s many endeavors include volunteering at the Dorothy Day House in Danbury, being an honorary member of the Newtown Rotary Club, and spreading information about a Unite For Sight’s current effort to bring a New Sight Eye Center to Liberia.

Ms King has been attending organization meetings and speaking about the program to help bring Liberians without eye care a hope at being able to see. During an interview regarding her being named as a finalist in the AFT Everyday Hero program, Ms King said, “Someday somebody in Liberia will be able to see.”

In the past, Ms King has brought her outgoing and contagious ability to help others and causes into her classroom. Last year Ms King and fellow Reed teachers Peter Bernson, Carla Tischio, and now-retired Al Washicko had jars collecting change in their classrooms to go toward a microlending program through www.kiva.org, which lends money to people around the world. Ms King has also offered tours of the Dorothy Day House to student groups.

Since being nominated as an Everyday Hero, Ms King has been receiving e-mail from former students, many expressing how she inspired them to go on to do community service work.

She has continued to stay focused on her current mission to bring a Unite for Sight eye care clinic to Liberia, and hopes, once a clinic is opened through raising $30,000 she can again bring her efforts to the attention of her students by setting them up with pen pals.

For more information on the Unite For Sight’s Liberian effort or to donate to the cause, contact Ms King at Reed by e-mailing kingk@newtown.k12.ct.us or calling 203-270-4880.

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