The Smoke Signal

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‘I’ve had a great run’

PV history teacher to retire after 33 years

Long-time history teacher Ms. Karen Kosch will retire at the end of this school year. She has been teaching at PV for 33 years.

John Castellanos

Long-time history teacher Ms. Karen Kosch will retire at the end of this school year. She has been teaching at PV for 33 years.

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When Ms. Karen Kosch walks through the halls at Pascack Valley, she tries to say hello to everyone she passes.

Likewise, she is treated like a celebrity, with students calling out to her as well.

“That’s one of the things I work hard at,” she said. “I try to learn the names of kids in the hall that I don’t even know, just to say hi to them. I feel good about it and maybe I make them feel good about it.”

Her colleagues, namely fellow history teachers Mr. Jeff Jasper, Ms. Marisa Mathias, and Ms. Leah Jerome, notice this too. They consider her a “great listener” as she “makes you feel like the center of the room.”

“She is the best listener I have ever met,” Jasper said, adding that she is nonjudgmental.

Kosch is approaching the end of her 33 years as a teacher at PV with plans to retire.

She began teaching in 1985 after graduating from Montclair State University and then later got her Master’s from Iona College. PV is the only school she has ever taught at.

Kosch said that her favorite thing about teaching at PV are the people and “the relationships that we’ve all had opportunities to build – teachers to teachers, students to students, colleagues to colleagues.”

Although she has only taught at PV, she said outsiders have told her that the people here are so good to each other.

“What we all believe in teaching is that if you build the relationships first, you can teach anything, you can have kids do anything – they will do anything – because there’s that trust,” she said.

 

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Camp Kosch

 

Some of Kosch’s relationships with students have stood the test of time.

At the end of April, Kosch attended a wedding of former student Dave Lichtstein, who graduated from PV in 2006, as she remains in touch with him and his group of friends from high school.

“This is a perfect example of how close we’ve become over the years,” Lichtstein said.

Lichtstein first met Kosch on the first day of his freshman year in Kosch’s Honors World History class. Then, when he was Vice President of the Executive Council his senior year and Kosch was the advisor, they grew closer.

Kosch said that this group of students from that class have dubbed themselves “Camp Kosch.” They get together with her every summer, spending time at her beach house.

That summer, Kosch invited Lichtstein and a few friends down to her beach house for a day for them to celebrate their graduation, and over time, this became an annual event, according to Lichtstein. He has participated in “Camp Kosch” for 11 out of the 12 years since he graduated from PV.

“This is a pretty cool tradition,” Lichtstein said, explaining that they have had barbecues, gone kayaking, spent time in the ocean, and gotten to know her family over the years.

Now, as they have maintained in contact with each other for so long, Lichtstein said that their relationship is “equal part friend and family” after first having been a typical student-teacher relationship.

“We keep in touch and communicate like with a close relative or a lifelong friend,” he said.

Kosch accredits this ability to stay in touch with her former students to social media, specifically email, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

The Next Chapter

 

Kosch sees herself as a very traditional person. She lives in in her family home after buying it from her father. Therefore, she has never moved. Kosch has also been in the same profession and teaching at the same school for 33 years.

Her colleagues agree and say that she has not changed much.

“The person she was in 1985 – joyful, delightful, upbeat, positive – is exactly who she is in 2018,” Jasper said. “She has not changed at all. That’s what is so beautiful about her.”

While Kosch is excited to retire, she said that she has mixed emotions.

“It’s bittersweet because you’re going at the top of your game, and you’re going loving it,” she said. “And that’s when it’s hard, and that’s when it’s emotional, but that means it’s good.”

“The hardest part for anyone about to retire who still loves what they’re doing is how do you walk away from what you love?” she added. “How do you walk away from this wonderful feeling every day of being with these wonderful people? It’s just your time, and it’s time for change, and you get to walk away still feeling really good about it.”

This enthusiasm for her profession is evident.

Jerome called her a “great educator,” as she “loves what she does”

Kosch feels as if it can’t get much better than this and she wants to retire at the height of her career.

“I always said to myself I wanted to go at the top of my game, and never wait a year too long: either I get too tired, or I’m not as patient, or I’m not as energized,” Kosch said.

Kosch said that for the first time in her life, she does not have much of a plan. At 55 years old, she is young enough to try something new, even if that just means taking care of herself physically.

“I love teaching, but I’m exhausted at the end of the day;” Kosch said. “I use so much energy during the day – I’m up and bouncing around, so I’m shot at the end of the day. I don’t exercise as much, so physical well-being comes into play.”

She is ready to move on to the next stage of her life, and she is exploring some options to keep her busy during retirement.

“Now I get to see if there’s a chapter two, and chapter two could just be exercising and reading the paper every day, or it could be helping other people in teacher relationship-type jobs,” she said.

Kosch thoroughly enjoys teaching and interacting with her students and will be sad to leave this profession.

“You leave fulfilled every day,” she said. “You leave fulfilled knowing that you treated other people well. You got to impart some knowledge. You have a good day every day.”

 

The Kosch Factor

 

“You know like when you go to DisneyWorld and it’s the most beautiful place on the planet?” Jerome said. “That’s what it’s like with Karen [Kosch].”

All of Kosch’s colleagues say they feel blessed to know and work with her.

Jasper has worked with Kosch for 33 years and in that time, he has come up with an effect he calls the “Kosch factor.”  

“The Kosch factor – you can’t define it, but when you figure it out, you, know it,” he said.

Jasper says he enjoys working with Kosch, so much so that he cannot choose what he likes best about her.

“She’s so selfless, refreshingly honest, shares everything she has willingly, and makes everyone she talks to feel like they’re the center of the universe,” Jerome said. “You have a positive view of life when you’re around her.”

Kosch is known around the school for her positivity.

“She is the most consistently happy person I’ve ever been around,” Jasper said. “She has this magnetism that makes anyone around her happy.”

Lichtstein feels lucky to have a personal relationship with Kosch.

“She is an incredible person and is definitely the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Lichtstein said. “She means so much to so many students.”

 

Classes

 

Kosch has been teaching freshmen in Honors World History for a number of years, took over the Religion in America class 12 years ago, and co-created the Critical Analysis of History Through Film class.

A new teacher will take over Honors World, while Mathias plans to teach Religion in America and Critical Analysis of History Through Film.

Kosch and Mathias go over the religion class every week and will meet during the summer to talk about the film class.

“I developed a passion for the courses and Kosch saw that passion,” said Mathias, who says she is extremely excited to have this opportunity.

She finds the course topics, especially those in Religion, to be interesting and plans to have Kosch come in as a guest speaker for these classes.

However, Mathias feels a little anxious, as Kosch has been teaching the class for so long and is a beloved member of the PV faculty.

“I have big shoes to fill and I’m nervous,” she said.

Kosch looks forward to what is to come, but fondly reminisces on her time teaching at PV.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I’ve had a great run here. I’ve had the best kids in the world. I’ve had the best classes. The community has been so supportive. I don’t know how this gets better.”

 

 

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About the Writer
Lauren Cohen, Editor in Chief

Lauren is a senior and has been an editor of The Smoke Signal since her freshman year. She is excited to work with all of the editors and the rest of the staff and she knows this will be The Smoke Signal‘s best year yet!

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