After nearly 40 years of hard work and service in the field of education, Karin Eckert-Carpenter received the Gloucester County Counselor of the year award on March 19.
“I don’t like to be in the spotlight but I share this award with every single person in my current department,” said Eckert-Carpenter. “All the counselors I have worked with throughout the years and my students and families, I am who I am because of them.”
According to a press release from Washington Township High School, this award is given by the Gloucester County Professional Counselors Association to recognize “professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates – and often lifesavers – for the nation’s students.” Eckert-Carpenter also received the Secondary Educational Services Professional of the Year award during the 2019-2020 school year.
“That is always your goal as an educator, your goal is to be the best and to be the teacher of the year,” said Eckert-Carpenter. “I was very honored, even more so to be named county counselor, because it is not just Washington Township it is all of Gloucester County.”
Eckert-Carpenter knew from a young age that a career in education was in her future. She had always admired her teachers and claimed they had a huge impact on her life even though her education was sometimes interrupted.
“I guess it started in the Philly public school system,” Eckert-Carpenter said. “Unfortunately, we dealt with a lot of strikes and being off school from that. So I would always play school in the driveway or in the basement.”
Despite some issues during her early education, Eckert-Carpenter went on to attend East Stroudsburg University where she received an undergraduate degree in Health and Physical Education. Even with her degree, Eckert-Carpenter had a difficult time finding a job in her career field.
“When I graduated I didn’t get a teaching job right away,” Eckert-Carpenter said. “I worked over at Lenape School district as an instructional Title 1 Aid. That job had a big impact.”
Eckert-Carpenter credits her job at Lenape as the first step in finding her true calling as a counselor. The job gave her an opportunity to work with students who were struggling academically or emotionally. She also worked with a student from Vietnam who did not speak any English. Eckert-Carpenter decided to go above and beyond by driving into Philadelphia to purchase a Vietnames to English dictionary to help her student adjust as much as possible.
After her short time at Lenape, she was hired at Washington Township High School and has now been there for 37 years.
“Lenape was not offering any full-time positions and I didnt even know where Washington Township was,” said Eckert-Carpenter. “That was before GPS so we used a little map … Washington Township called me a year after I applied.”
Her time spent at WTHS consisted of many titles including health and physical education teacher, coach and counselor. She was also an advisor for many clubs including National Honor Society and Peer Facilitators.
Eckert-Carpenter spoke about bringing in many initiatives throughout her time at Washington Township, but she most prided herself on bringing the counseling department into the 21st century.
“The counselors who had previously implemented programs, I took off running with them,” Eckert-Carpenter said.
She was one of the first counselors to use WebEx meetings and Teams meetings. Both video-conferencing tools allowed counselors to meet face-to-face with students and faculty which she claimed was extremely rewarding, especially after students were sent home due to COVID-19.
“It really doesn’t matter how many years you have been teaching, or not been teaching, nothing prepared us for this,” Eckert-Carpenter said of the pandemic. “It is just like anything, when you have that experience and you know how things should operate and all of a sudden you have been thrown into this unknown world where we still don’t know what the next day is going to bring.”
Eckert-Carpenter is hoping to come back to in-person school for at least another year or two before looking at retirement.
“Retirement just means a new beginning to me,” she said. “It’s been a great ride and my goal was to leave a legacy and influence others. Whether it is the teachers, administrators, the person who works in the cafeteria, the custodians … because I am no better than anyone and we all work together. It is very important in education to realize that.”
Eckert-Carpenter wanted to take time to thank all of the people in her life who have made a huge impact on her.
“First my parents, Siegfried and Ursula Karnas, are No. 1 to thank for everything. Those who were instrumental in my career include Maryann Shivers, Joan Wisniewski, Judy Nelson, Ralph Saquella, Ro Farrow, Jonathan Strout, Jennifer Grimaldi, John and Mary Ellen Bush.
“Of course there is my husband, Bryan Carpenter, and my six kids, John, Joe, Erica, Justin, Pat and Melanie, along with my dog Cocoa,” Eckert-Carpenter continued. “Then there are my sisters, Annette and Diane, and brothers-in-law, Paul and Rick.”