Former SHS English teacher returns to area as Argonaut principal

February 14, 2017 — by Ethan Ko and Christopher Lee

Former SHS English teacher Karen van Putten has had a varied career in education that has taken her from Michigan to the California coast, and now from serving teenagers in high school students to young children in elementary school.

Last semester, van Putten returned to the area as the new principal of Argonaut Elementary School. She had previously worked as an English teacher at Saratoga High for seven years starting in 2000.

After her experiences at Saratoga High, van Putten became an assistant principal at Fremont High School and later a principal for four years at San Lorenzo High School where she worked to create fun and useful activities to teach the students.    

For van Putten, teaching at Saratoga High remains a fond memory. Previously, she had taught at a school in her native Michigan, but she still remembers the distinctive Saratogan academic rigor that provided a welcomed challenge for her as a teacher.               

“As a teacher, I was interested in taking on some leadership positions,” van Putten said. “Switching from English 9 and 11 Honors at Saratoga High to the field of administration was an opportunity for me to work within education and still be a vital part of the action.”

When she worked in the SHS English department, van Putten tried various methods to engage students and provide for the most beneficial learning experiences, such as going on field trips to bring John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” to life.

“We did a field trip to the farm, and the kids had to hoe the fields and work with the farmers. One or two years, I connected the themes of working off the land from Steinbeck’s ‘The Pearl’ with the Monterey Bay,” van Putten said. “The students saw Steinbeck’s connection to the land as well as the sea.”

Van Putten remembers many positive experiences at SHS.

“Working with intelligent and creative students and colleagues allowed me to push my own understandings and develop a wider, more global perspective,” van Putten said.

After working outside of the area since her time at Saratoga High, van Putten has returned in an administrative position to work with younger students.

“My experiences with students at SHS reinforced my work in helping kids understand that one's mindset plays a critical role in learning,” van Putten said. “Students who accepted that often took more risks in class assignments or participated in activities that allowed themselves to live a little more fully.”

 

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