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Remembering Dr. Karen Pinter 1939-2010

November 2010
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Teaching Was Her Vocation, Avocation

(Editor's Note: This article will be expanded and updated periodically for the next 30 days with remembrances of Dr. Pinter from Sauk faculty and staff.)

Dr. Karen Pinter will be remembered for many wonderful things during her 40 years at Sauk. She enjoyed nearly five years of retirement before we lost her on October 18. Karen's impact on the college - from the students she taught to everyone she worked with - will live forever.

Kathryn Lillyman, SVCC assistant professor of Spanish (retired) recalls that while Karen was well known for her teaching, she was also known for her warmth, versatility and diligence, and everyone loved her for that rare and beautiful combination. Friendships were her way of life, her lasting tribute to SVCC.

“Forty-Four years ago we were together; installed in a stall-like office, forming a new school and deep friendships,” recalls Lillyman. “Karen glowed: new school, new students, and new friends.”

Lillyman remembers Karen’s down-to-earth creativity. In 1980 Indo-Chinese immigrants came to Sauk, speaking no English and foreign to our culture. There came an unusual grant to teach English to 72 non-English speakers that frequently could not understand one another. Karen created an experimental English course wherein the befuddled newcomers, 12 tutors, and an experimental spirit took them around Dixon. Controlled small group visits and dialogs took place at a circus, in a hospital, butcher shop, bakery, and at a used car emporium. These visits resulted in “I need,” “how much?” don’t want.” For some, Karen’s experimental English worked.

“Karen’s creativity was fun. Her laugh. Her chuckle. Karen, a great teacher, we’ll miss you. Karen, a great friend, we miss you even more,” said Lillyman.

Jane Hamilton

Karen began at Sauk in 1967, becoming one of its charter faculty members. She was promoted through the years becoming professor of academic skills, teaching college-level reading, GED preparation, children's literature, and remedial reading and writing. After earning her doctorate, Karen developed and oversaw Sauk's developmental reading program, developed and taught a class on children's literature for local educators, and was one of the first instructors to develop and teach composition online.

A founding member of Sauk's Core Assessment Team, Karen read extensively, attended workshops and conferences, and helped develop our assessment program. She mentored faculty and staff with assessment-related questions, and set up and stocked a Resource Room of assessment-related materials. What's more, she attended and presented at many English, Reading, and Articulation conferences, served on the selection committee for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award, was active in countless reading and literacy organizations, helped establish Child Fair, and was also active in the Faculty Association and the Illinois Education Association.

No matter how busy she was, Karen gave each person her undivided attention. And, despite serious vision problems, Karen never complained or let it affect her work or her life.

Kris Murray, assistant professor of humanities, and Debi Hill, professor of English, were former students of Karen. For both, Karen later became a mentor, colleague, and friend. Kris said her great memories of Karen are numerous. Debi said Karen, known affectionately among her students as "Ma," reached out to students of all levels.

"It was a privilege to have both studied under and worked alongside Karen," said Debi.

Odile Blazquez, adjunct faculty English and reading, said reading was Karen’s passion, and her knowledge of it and of human nature was impressive.

"She was understanding and sensitive to their needs, always adjusting, tweaking, or changing this and that, looking to make her students' classroom experience more rewarding," said Odile. "She was a really great teacher. Not only was I fortunate to work with Karen, but I was also very lucky to be her friend."

In 2006, Karen was our commencement speaker. Teaching was her vocation and her avocation, and during her impressive career, Dr. Karen Pinter helped Sauk, her students, and everyone she knew.