Teaching across the globe

A retired Everett schoolteacher who now travels the world to help children celebrated her 70th birthday on the back of a camel in Tanzania.

Karen Carpenter poses on sports day at MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School in Monduli, Tanzania. From left are Cecelia, Miriamu, Paulina, Carpenter, Suzana and Bahati (in front).

“It’s always been my dream to educate children and see a happier, more peaceful society,” said Karen Carpenter of Marysville.

“Children just give me a lift. They’re quite an inspiration.”

Everywhere she goes, she brings with her an idealism that has pervaded her life and career.

“My life is love of children and love of teaching,” she said.

Carpenter in June was honored for her community service here and abroad with the Stan McNaughton Outreach Award at the Washington State School Retirees Association annual awards ceremony.

“I was quite excited to receive an award that was a natural thing in my daily life,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter says her strong faith in God and love of teaching drove her to make two recent trips to Africa to teach math and English to young girls and women in Monduli, Tanzania.

She and others successfully petitioned the MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School to be visiting teachers, and those journeys have been especially rewarding, she said.

“You felt like you were needed,” she said. “It’s not like our schools here, where you have to do a little routine to get their attention. There, they’re just like sponges. They just soak it up, anything you can teach them.”

Her students were girls between 11 and 18 years old who regularly face being sold into marriage at a young age by their fathers, Carpenter said.

“We’re trying to re-educate the fathers that an educated daughter is worth a lot more,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter’s philanthropic ways began early. As a young girl, she sent a care package – including a favorite angora sweater – to a girl in Germany after World War II. The two became pen pals, and Carpenter still speaks with Hildegard Steinbomer today.

Carpenter has also promoted literacy, provided clothes for schoolchildren in need, raised money for scholarships, and is a member of Our Savior’s Lutheran in Everett.

She taught for 24 years in Everett elementary schools, including Whittier, Woodside, James Monroe and View Ridge.

Before retiring, Carpenter taught for a year as a Fulbright Exchange teacher in second grade in a Catholic school in England.

Carpenter paid her own way for the Africa trips in 2003 and 2004, which included time on safari, and brought with her money and supplies for the impoverished area.

During her trips, she also visited hospitals and cattle farmers. She confesses to being “terribly idealistic.”

“I am going back to Africa in January,” she said. “It’s helping children, young girls, to have a better life.”

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com

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