Coming from a family that boasts four generations of educators, Karen Fitzpatrick knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a young child, she lined up her stuffed animals and played school, eventually realizing her dream after graduating from college and moving to Delaware. Excluding the year and a half she spent teaching and living overseas, Fitzpatrick spent over 30 years working in Delaware schools. Much of that time has been within the Milford School District. After teaching third grade for many years, she received an opportunity to teach Multiple Intelligence music at Benjamin Banneker and Ross Elementary Schools.
Along the way, several of Fitzpatrick’s teaching positions included teaching summer school for TAG, teaching at a private international school overseas, teaching as an adjunct professor at Wilmington University and supervising the L.E.A.D. program for MHS tenth graders that she helped to create. She obtained a Masters in Educational Leadership and has also earned National Board Certification. Despite her large list of professional accolades, Fitzpatrick’s most rewarding accomplishment is seeing her students succeed.
“It is amazing to witness the blossoming abilities of students, their hidden creative talents, their cooperation, and their continued growth of skills and social interactions,” said Fitzpatrick. “I relish devising a curriculum that challenges myself and my students to reach our own milestones and uncover our individual strengths. As I tell my students, we learn from each other and our roles switch between being a learner and being a teacher.”
As a teacher, Fitzpatrick knows she is making a difference when she hears her students say “There are no mistakes, just a chance to make a change“, “This is really hard but I know I can do it.” and “I am not sure if I like this, but I will keep working on it.”
“Molding their approach towards learning and ultimately their self-view is intensely gratifying and one of those immeasurable benefits of being a teacher,” she said.
As a veteran teacher, Fitzpatrick has witnessed new challenges surfacing in the educational climate. She states that working in harmony with the idea of using technology that enhances the education process while simultaneously strengthening students’ interpersonal skills concurrent with the concept of teamwork is becoming more challenging. She is also concerned with society’s preoccupation with instantaneous gratification, and a result-driven mentality, that can sometimes ignore the importance of in-depth complex thinking required to solve complicated problems.
“Taking time to think critically about a problem that has no immediate, obvious solution is a vital process which upcoming generations must master. They will become global citizens who will need to find innovative solutions,” said Fitzpatrick. “Not all learning results in an instantaneous answer or product. Instead it can involve a productive process with the emphasis on process. This creative struggle, this process of problem-solving without an immediate answer, or no answer at all, becomes a valuable part of learning which seems to be less prevalent in our current educational journey.”
Fitzpatrick states that being awarded Teacher of the Year for Lulu Ross Elementary is fulfilling. “Teaching is a challenging vocation and Milford has many outstanding educators, so I humbly welcome another opportunity to represent Ross school,” she said. “As an expressive arts teacher, it confirms that Milford values the importance of the arts in a child’s development.”
Currently a small cadre of students are working to design and paint a Milford community banner to be displayed downtown. Many years ago, Fitzpatrick started the annual Talent Showcase for Ross students and has been pleased to watch students motivate themselves to perform and shine. “Without artistic expression through art and music, our students lose a deep connection to themselves and community,” she said. “Society devolves when cultural arts are undervalued, so teaching expressive arts ensures that this core expression of humanity will continue to flourish. Thankfully, Milford School District supports the arts.”
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