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70-year-old teacher back in classroom after retiring in 2011

Karen Schenavar last taught in 2011. She's back teaching preschoolers at St. Patrick's in Carleton, MI after a shortage of teachers gave her another opportunity.

CARLETON, Mich. — The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the world. That was especially true in classrooms as hundreds of thousands of educators walked away from their careers. Teacher Karen Schenavar did the opposite - and came back from retirement.

After retiring from the public education system after 35 years as a teacher over a decade ago, Schenavar says she is not only teaching her students but learning from them too.

Every morning she said she walks through the school's Peace Garden.

"I pray to have a good day, that the kids will see the light and it has been wonderful," said Schenavar.

She taught in Monroe County but said she reluctantly retired in 2011 after Michigan started pushing for younger teachers. 

During her retired years, she kept busy tutoring preschoolers several days a week, but it wasn't the same according to her. Then, while scrolling through Facebook one day she came across a post from St. Patricks of Carleton.

"They were possibly looking for a preschool teacher/tutor, and it wasn't a case of 'did I think I could do it'; it was a case of 'did I want to do it'," said Schenavar.

Deep down, she did - a decision made easier since her grandson, Weston Schenavar, is a fourth grader at the school.

"It was a big thing for me, because she was teaching at the school that I always come to," said Weston.

Schenavar said her colleagues have played a big role in getting her situated again and even threw her a 70th birthday and welcome back party for her back in October.

"Most of my colleagues were pretty supportive. I mean, they jokingly said, 'are you crazy.' Teaching is crazy and maybe a little crazier that I'm older," said Schenavar.

Schenavar believes 3 and 4-year-olds today are more open with their thoughts than students she taught in the past, something that requires a bit more patience. Her advice to younger teachers is to work with the parents.

"You have to be together because the ultimate person who is going to benefit is the child," she said.

Shenavar's school's principal recently asked her about her plans for next year. 

She says if, "god-willing" she's healthy, up and able, she definitely will be back next year.

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