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Goodbye, Ms. Swamp: English department chair retires after 45 years in the classroom


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Rebecca Siegel
Design Editor
Amidst music from the soundtrack of the latest film depiction of “The Great Gatsby” and begrudging seniors chatting just a few feet away, retiring English teacher Karen Randall reflected on 45 years in the classroom
Randall started her teaching career in the early 1960s after at- tempting to enter the male-dominated world of radio broadcasting and later, film, were stymied. Teaching was not Randall’s first choice, but it ended up being the only way she could truly do what she loved — read.
“I tried to apply to the film school at the University of Southern California, but I was told by a very close professor that I was dreaming,” Randall said. “There were no women in film, so I asked myself the most important question of my life, ‘What else do I like to do?’ I love to read.”
For Randall, teaching was the third option and the best choice, coming after rejections and gender discrimination.
“Here I was facing all this sex- ism, and it actually helped me find my true career,” Randall said. “How ironic is that?”
Randall spent her first year in the classroom in a socio-economically depressed community across the bay in East Oakland, teaching an all-black, all-male, junior-year American literature course. The young men had absolutely no interest in what she had to teach, according to Randall.“When I bonded
with that first class, I
got them interested in learning,” Randall said.
“It was a triumph. I had managed to connect with those students who had a completely different culture than my own through humor, humility and respect. That was the formula that laid the groundwork for the rest of my teaching career.”
Randall later taught at coed, public Los Gatos High School and now-closed St. Rose Academy in San Francisco before coming to CSH. The wide range of students in her workplaces has contributed to the flexibility and dexterity Randall shows in the classroom.
“The extraordinary thing about my career is that I have worked in so many different places,” Randall said. “Blue Ribbon, college prep, public high schools; schools like Convent, the school in East Oakland. I have seen it and dealtAlice Jones | The Broadview with it all. That has been invaluable.”
Randall has spent 17 years teaching at CSH, where she says she hopes to leave a strong legacy on not only the English Department but on all the students she has taught.
“I hope that I have left students with the idea that teaching is a higher calling,” Randall said. “There is a very precious dynamic in all Convent class- rooms that surrounds educating the child as a whole, and focusng on the spark of divinity within each student.”
The spirit of acceptance and love that is bound in the curriculum of her American Literature course has helped Randall bridge the gap between teacher and mentor. Students are able to learn in an environment that is challenging, but also full of love and support, according to Elena Dudum (’11).
“I use her techniques now, at college,” Dudum said. “What makes Ms. Randall so special is that she became a mentor and showed a support to me during high school that was irreplaceable.”
Randall prefers to call this next stage in her life a “transition” rather than a “retirement,” saying she is looking forward to new adventures and opportunities that will allow her to use her gifts.
“I need more adventures, but I will never stop teaching,” Randall said. “I have years left in me, and I am looking forward to having the freedom to use all of my gifts I have discovered through my time as an educator.”
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1 Comment

One Response to “Goodbye, Ms. Swamp: English department chair retires after 45 years in the classroom”

  1. Paul Blair on June 21st, 2017 10:27 pm

    I had Ms. Randall my senior year of High School, 1989-1990. She is the reason I went on to get my Bachelors Degree in English, and she is who I attempt to emulate in the classroom everyday as I teach my students! Do, yes, she has left a huge mark, and will continue to do so!

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Goodbye, Ms. Swamp: English department chair retires after 45 years in the classroom