Reading teacher Karen McMahon will be retiring in a couple of weeks after nearly three decades at Tilton School.
During her years as the reading teacher, McMahon has helped students enhance their reading skills in the “Reading Treehouse,” which is a classroom adorned with painted murals inside and out, making it a fun place to learn.
“People say ‘I bet you can’t wait to retire’, but this is bittersweet to me. This has been my second home for almost 30 years,” McMahon said. “I now have kids of kids that I started here with. I’ve watched families grow up.”
McMahon always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a young teen she volunteered at a Rockford School, later pursuing degrees from Southern Illinois University and Aurora University. There were teachers in her life early on that inspired her, including two elementary teachers and a professor at SIU.
Now having been a teacher for 28 years at Tilton, McMahon has had a chance to experience so many memorable moments in a profession she thoroughly enjoys.
“The biggest thing I love about teaching is watching the students get it…that light bulb moment when they finally say ‘I can do it’…when they’re so proud of themselves,” McMahon said. “It is very rewarding to know I’ve made a difference with the kids.”
McMahon undoubtedly has made a difference in many teachers’ lives as well, taking every opportunity possible to share materials or information she has learned at a workshop.
“It is rewarding to me if they ask, or if I can share knowledge with different teachers. We all work together,” McMahon beamed. “I love sharing my books. I love introducing new books…that’s probably my passion.”
McMahon said she is looking forward to devoting more time with the church and doing mission work — something both her and her husband would like to do. Traveling and eventually moving to a warmer climate are also on the list. In the short term, McMahon will be helping her daughter collect data for a research project in the fall. Both her daughter and son are pursuing Doctorate degrees.
When asked if she would have any advice to share with a new teacher, McMahon said asking questions and making connections with the students are important.
“Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s OK as a new teacher that you don’t know everything. It’s OK that you need to ask questions. I’ve been here 30 years and I’m still asking questions,” McMahon said. “And take the time to get to know your kids, and make that connection, because that connection with those kids is probably the biggest thing that will help you along the way.”
Adding, “Make those connections and the rest falls into place.”
McMahon said not only has she enjoyed the connections made with the students, but she also cherishes the relationships with her colleagues as well.
“This school has been a blessing. I’ve had an opportunity to work in a district that puts the kids first,” McMahon said. “I truly feel this district puts the kids first and allows as much as they can…I’ve always felt supported.”
“I’ve been blessed, truly blessed.”