“Miss Jackson”

Every summer, the week before school started, my friends and I would ride our bikes out to our local school to look at the class lists taped to the front door that told us what room we’d be in the next year. I was so excited when I learned I was going to get the “new teacher,” Peravena Jackson, for my fifth grade teacher.

Miss Jackson was fresh out of college, and I still remember her clearly – she loved to laugh and explore, and help her students find their super powers, and she had a beautiful smile. When Miss Jackson learned my dad was a well-known mountaineer she asked him if he would help chaperone a ski trip for her class – I still remember her enthusiasm and energy as she went skiing for the first time, and I remember she wore that beautiful smile the entire day. I remember snow flakes in her hair.

Miss Jackson nurtured the good in her students. She gave us opportunities for success. She was the first person to call me a writer – she told the entire class that I was a good writer. That meant something to me. And she knew how to tap into my desire to be the best I could be – she had daily timed quizzes on the multiplication tables and I made it my goal to be quicker each day than I was the day before. By the end of the year I was crowned the “Multiplication Queen” and could do those multiplication sheets in less than a minute. Learning those multiplication tables is something that has helped me my entire life. Miss Jackson built me up and never failed to acknowledge when I did well at something. She was my biggest advocate.

But it wasn’t just ME she nurtured. Miss Jackson – like every great teacher – brought out the best in ALL of her students. She found every student’s gifts and set about helping her students develop those gifts. All the students in her first class – each and every one of them – were blessed to have Miss Jackson for their teacher.

In sixth grade my family moved to a new home two hours away and I lost touch with my old friends and with Miss Jackson for a while. But I never forgot her. And the confidence she’d helped nurture in me stayed with me and got me through some challenging times in my new community. She’d taught me I could trust myself and my own abilities – one of the most valuable gifts anybody can give to another.

I got married when I was 27. It had been 17 years since I’d had Miss Jackson as my teacher – so when she suddenly appeared at the door to the room where I was getting put together for my wedding ceremony, it felt like magic! She gave me a big hug and I could feel her positive, joyful energy wrapping me all up in love on my special day.

For another thirty years we chiefly kept in touch with Christmas cards, but then – fifty years after I’d had “Miss Jackson” for my fifth grade teacher – I found her and two of my old elementary school classmates on Facebook. We messaged each other back and forth and in 2018 my old classmates and Peravena and I were all able to come together and be in the same room for the first time in more than five decades! It was kind of surreal, actually, and very cool!

And now here we are 55 years later. These days I find myself in an age group labeled “elderly” by some folks (which I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around – I still FEEL like I’m a “kid,” you know?). How blessed am I that my “elderly” self still has her fifth grade teacher mentoring her through the ups and downs of life? Peravena Jackson Wilson continues to inspire me and nurture the good in me. She has this uncanny ability to know just when I need an encouraging word – just when I’m starting to doubt myself and what I’m doing here, she’ll pop onto my FB wall and leave a comment that lifts me back up. Yesterday “Miss Jackson” popped onto my wall to leave me this message: “I think of you and your written thoughts when I need a positive outlook on a negative situation. Thanks again for your thoughtful written words!!” And see? Right there. My fifth grade teacher can STILL make me feel like my life has meaning and purpose, and that I matter to her. That is what great teachers do.

Great teachers never stop teaching and nurturing the good in their students – and “Miss Jackson” is one of the world’s great teachers. I’m so grateful I got to be in her fifth grade class all those years ago. And I’m so grateful I’m still connected to her today.

(The author is second from the left and “Miss Jackson” is second from the right.)

I Taught History for Two Decades…

“Covering iniquity will prevent prosperity and the ultimate triumph of any cause. Ignorance of the error to be eradicated oftentimes subjects you to its abuse.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

I taught history for two decades. My students learned about the Holocaust, slavery, the Trail of Tears, attacks against Chinese railroad workers and miners, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the killing of Charlie Howard. They watched “The Grapes of Wrath” and learned about the struggles and inequity the poor faced during the Great Depression. They learned about the Constitution – about their rights and the rights of others. They practiced being lawyers defending clients against injustice. They created their own presidential candidates out of construction paper and words, and learned about the qualifications their candidates would need to run for president. My students learned about heroes in history, too – they learned about Georgio Perlasca, Irena Sendler, Oskar Schindler, Ghandi, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Susan Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and the unheralded acts of kindness “common” people showed to others during times of challenge and struggle.

My students learned about these things and people to help give them tools to be heroes themselves one day.

To force teachers to skip over the ugly parts of history – injustice, inequity, racism, political and corporate greed and dishonesty – is not a help to our world, our country, or our students. It is not preparing our young people for the challenges they and/or their friends will be facing in their lives or helping to create the heroes our world so desperately needs.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The history of our country, like all history, illustrates the might of Mind, and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Unstoppable Truth

You can try to censor Truth –
but you can’t make It go away
you can try to destroy It –
try to stop what people say
try to stop teachers from
teaching and journalists
from revealing what they find,
but trying to stop Truth is like
trying to stop the sun’s shine –
It’ll light the darkest cave;
bounce off the moon onto
the night’s ocean wave;
cross political borders and lines;
fill our hearts and make us brave.
You can’t corrupt It, change It,
or take away Truth’s power.
It stands solid – a rock,
a beacon on a tower.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, ‘as when a lion roareth.’ It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, p 559

You Learned This in Your 8th Grade Social Studies Class

Dear students –
Remember when we talked about the qualifications for president? Remember what the qualifications are? Yes – good! That’s right! A person has to be a native-born American citizen. Anything else? Yes! Right! A person has to be over 35, and has to have lived in this country for at least 14 years.

So does everyone who is currently a candidate for president and vice president meet those qualifications? Yup. Trump (born in NY) and Pence (born in Indiana) and Biden (born in Pennsylvania) and Harris (born in California) are all native-born American citizens, are all over 35, and have all lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years.

Now if you should encounter some weird post that calls any of these candidates an “anchor baby” and, therefore, unable to be president – or if you encounter an odd post about a conspiracy designed to put someone else in the White House because one of the candidates isn’t qualified to be president – remember what you learned in your eighth grade social studies class, okay? You do not need to spend a lot of time “researching” this stuff or even wondering about the possibility of it. You already know what you need to know about this.
-Mrs. T.

For Parent Math Teachers

For all the brave parents out there who are helping their children with high school math:

After a Day Spent Teaching Math

Function notation of a linear equation
Integer, whole, irrational, and real –
What would it cost to buy this meal?
Multiplying this, and factoring that –
How many cats would fit on that mat?
Parallel and perpendicular lines in a plane
When you subtract you lessen,
When you add you gain.
Exponents and polynomials and parabolas and lines
Angles and triangles, tangents and sines
Distributive, reflexive, transitive props
Substitution really just means doing a swap.
Slope intercept form and Pythagorean theorem
how many people would fill the museum?
The minimum’s the low point, the maximum’s the high
Mathematical equations are as easy as pi.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, twitchy-eyed sometime math teacher

Transcript from Primary Night

Here’s a transcript from my interview with the radio show on primary night. My interview starts at about 24 minutes into the show. At about 27 minutes into the show – after I’d left – the hosts summed up the interview. I had no idea that they were still talking about me at this point – until I listened to the interview afterwards. Their words meant a lot to me.

Don Wick: We have Karen Molenaar Terrell here. She’s running for school board in the Burlington Edison School District, district #4. There are four individuals in that race. Two of them will move on to the general election. And Karen, tell me why are you running for school board?

Karen: Well, I’ve spent most of my life in education. I’ve been a teacher for more than 30 years and 20 of those years were actually in the Burlington Edison school district – I taught at three of the schools there – Allen and Edison, and West View… and I just retired from teaching at Emerson High School in Mount Vernon – which is an alternative high school. I just love being part of education. I love helping young people find their potential and find their path in life and I want to continue to be a part of that. Now that I’ve retired as a teacher I’d like to use all the experience and wisdom that I’ve gained as a teacher on the school board. I think I could do a lot of good there.

Don: You have a lot of passion for this.

Karen: I do. I love education – I love the students, I love working with the students, and I enjoy teachers and everybody that’s involved in education and in the process. I do have a passion for this.

Don: What are some of the issues that you would like to see the school board undertake.

Karen: As a teacher my first priority was always the safety of my students. I think I would carry that into my position on the school board, also. I think we have a problem right now with students not feeling like they belong, or feeling isolated or feeling bullied and picked on on social media, and there’s an opioid crisis. We have some emotional and mental health issues. And I’d like to address that with peer mentoring programs maybe, with time spent every day where students can share concerns that they have, and with a counselor-student ratio that’s healthy. I know the counselors that I’ve met are feeling kind of overwhelmed sometimes. There’s so many students. I’d like to work with those things

Don: Well, Karen, It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll see whether you move on to the general election in November.

Karen: You know, I’m feeling really good about everybody who’s running for this position. I don’t think the district is going to lose because everybody who’s running – all four of the candidates – have something really unique and special that they can bring into this position. So it’s kind of a no-lose situation for the district.

Don: Who’d you vote for?

Karen: Well, THIS time I voted for Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Don: Karen, thank you so much for joining us.

Karen: Thank you.
Here’s what the hosts said after the interview was done:

“Very honorable reasons that she has for running. You can tell she’s speaking from the heart – she has a passion… the district would be well-served by having her as a school board member. She mentioned that the other candidates are also great and that shows a lot of class. In this day and age… that’s a somewhat rare, you might say, nationally – bordering on non-existent. We live in a great community.”

Click here to hear the show.

“Blessed to have this man for my father.”

Pop made the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald today for winning the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award.

And I want to take a moment here to share some of the many reasons I feel blessed to have this man for my father. I was born before Title IX: “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'”  (www.ncaa.org) It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my school finally got a girls’ track team and I was able to high jump on my school’s team. But my dad introduced me to high jumping long before that. He built a little high jump for me when I was a youngster, and rooted for me as we had our own track meet in the backyard. He also taught me how to ski; led me up Mount Rainier, Baker, Adams, and Hood; took me on my first little rock scramble (Pinnacle Peak) when I was four years old; supported me in my university education and wrote me encouraging notes throughout my teaching career – he was always proud of me as a teacher, and he’s proud of me now for running for school board. He’s never in any way limited me because I was a female.

And this was a man who was born in 1918 – two years before women even had the right to vote!

Dad on front page of svh

“Good try, though.” :)

Some wise guy turned around my campaign sign at the espresso stand so’s all you could see was the blank back of it. And I found myself cracking up. I could just picture it: I pictured a man with a baseball cap on his head, a cup of drip coffee in one hand and a rascally grin on his face – slyly reaching out and pulling my sign out of the dirt, giving it a stealthy 180 turn, and re-planting it. And – maybe it’s my background as a middle school teacher – but the idea of that just cracked me up.

It reminds me of my first day teaching eighth graders at Allen School: My partner, Teresa, and I both started in the B-E school district at Allen Elementary School the same year. Teresa taught science and math to the youngsters and I taught social studies and English. We were both dazzled by our students right from the start – I remember half-way through the day we both popped out of our classrooms at the same time, looked down the hall at each other, big grins on our faces, and said simultaneously, “I love these kids!”

At the end of the day we were outside the building, waving good bye to our new students as they loaded onto the buses, and we suddenly – again, both at the same time – looked at each other and said, “Where’s ____?!” We realized we were missing one of our students.

Without needing to say anything more to each other (and this is probably when I recognized my new partner and I had some special cosmic connection) we both hauled off in the same direction – towards the side of the school – rounded the corner and found our missing 8th grader in the process of lighting up a cigarette. Simultaneously, we yelled, “Busted!” He grinned at us and we grinned back. And that was the end of that. We established right from the get-go who he was dealing with that year, and we also established that we genuinely cared about him and he wasn’t invisible to us.

Finding the sign turned around this morning made me flashback to that scene at the side of the school all those years ago.

Ahem. And no – I did not leave the sign turned with its backside to the road. Good try, though. 

campaign sign

I’ll Never Forget You

I retire from teaching this week. I’ve been clearing out my space at school and came upon some notes and messages from my days as a teacher at Allen and Edison and West View that have brought tears to my eyes – I’m getting all choked up here. I have been blessed with such wonderful students in my career – kind and courageous and dear. I want to share some of what I’ve found this week – I want my students to know that their notes and kind words and art have stayed with me and meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget you. 


The “Lasts”

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss

This week I’ve found myself being conscious of all the “lasts” – the last time I’ll ever do an algebra problem with a student; the last time I’ll do symmetrical art with a student; the last time I’ll teach a student how to recognize when a paragraph can be split into two; the last time I’ll talk about trench warfare, and the drummer boys in the Civil War, and why civilizations start around rivers; the last time I’ll say good-bye to my students at the end of a school year…