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Remembering Karen Kolkka

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Georgia Barrick
Photo by Karen Kolkka

Karen Kolkka, a Lower School girls art teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for over 20 years, passed away on Thursday, September 21st.

Ms. Kolkka was a passionate teacher whose patient and kind manner made others feel valued and important.

Dr. Megan Monaghan, chair of the arts department at SCH, shared, “She was one of the kindest people that I know … She operated from a place where kindness was at the front to all that she did, whether it was faculty, whether it was students, and we all learned from her in that capacity.”

Many community members spoke about how Ms. Kolkka made everyone feel heard and cared about.

Former SCH Arts Chair Ellen Fishman noted, “Whether with adults or students, Karen always cared. She modeled how to slow down enough to hear what other community members might need.”

Her kindness continued into the classroom where she taught with authenticity and never failed to make her students believe that they could be artists.

“She offered you the space to listen to and nurture your inner artist, right? One of the many beautiful things about about her was how she always sought to connect individually with each student and teacher, and they felt it.” 

She never stopped searching for new ways to make art, new ways to teach art, and share that art.

— Dr. Meghan Monaghan

Ms. Kolkka was thoughtful in choosing her words, and when she spoke her words had significant meaning.

Lower School music teacher Martha Crowell observed, “Karen was a woman of few words, each one a pearl.”

Ms. Kolkka was also very intentional in her lessons for her students. She found ways to make sophisticated units accessible to her students so that they could make thoughtful and creative artistic choices.

Dr. Monaghan said, “She was curious in that she never stopped searching for new ways to make art, new ways to teach art, and share that art. She also shared that gift with her students, I think, in the way that she taught, she helped them to be curious artists, which is one of the greatest gifts you could give an artist.”

Ms. Kolkka showed her students how to make unique choices and always emphasized the importance of letting students express themselves. She created a safe space in her classroom through her work as the lower school diversity coordinator.

When asked what she took away from Ms. Kolkka’s art class, SCH student Hope Kelly said, “I’d say just kind of like don’t be afraid to like be creative and stuff because that was like the one thing she always really pushed with art was just like, you’re free to like make your own choices and stuff.”

Ms. Kolkka gave each of her students the foundation they would need to not only succeed in art but also to love it.

“She inspired me,” said SCH junior Georgia Barrick who is currently taking art electives and plans to pursue art in the future.

Ms. Kolkka’s students will continue to be reminded of Ms. Kolkka through the lessons and philosophies that she shared with them.

Lower school teacher Sharon Herzog, a colleague of Ms. Kolkka’s for over 20 years, stated, “when she became the art teacher, she was home, that was her place to be.” 

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About the Contributors
Georgia O'Connor
Georgia O'Connor, Staff Writer
Georgia is currently a junior at SCH. Outside of school, she can be found playing with her dog, sleeping, or baking chocolate chip cookies.
Georgia Barrick
Georgia Barrick, Illustrator
Georgia Barrick is a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and this is her first year on staff for The Campus Lantern. She is a dedicated artist who spends her time outside school working on paintings, music, and fashion design.
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    Kim Eberle-WangOct 28, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    I loved the huge paper mache animals that Karen created to delight her lower school students when they read books like Wilbur the pig from “Charlottes Web”!

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  • A

    Amelia BairdOct 27, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    this is beautifully written.

    Reply