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Super Senior: Karen Williams

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 1:18 PM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s been a tough year for educators during the pandemic.

At Castleton Elementary School, Principal Kim Prehoda says safety protocols and mask-wearing for everyone have kept the school going since September. “We’ve been able to maintain in-person learning every day,” she said.

But there’s been a price -- a halt to hugging. “I miss the hugs. I used to get hugs from the kids all the time,” said Karen Williams. The 75-year-old, who has been helping out in the classroom for close to 15 years, loves her kids.

Williams says the students have adapted well to these most unusual times. “It’s been quite a year, but I have to admit these kids have been awesome,” she said.

For Mrs. Williams, the face coverings have unmasked a challenge. She’s been hard of hearing most of her life. “Because of my lip-reading and sometimes the children {making whisper sounds}, So you have to say, ‘You have to speak up, Mrs. Williams can’t hear you!’ Then, they’ll speak right up for me,” Williams said.

She was younger than her students when one of her teachers -- Mrs. Wentworth -- realized something was wrong. “She’s the one who discovered I was hard of hearing. She just knew I wasn’t ignoring my mom,” Williams said.

Doctors discovered she had nerve damage. She was still a happy kid, just in a quiet world. “I started wearing hearing aids at the age of 10,” she said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Were you self-conscious?

Karen Williams: At first. Then, I got to the point that I thought to myself, my head is more expensive than yours is... I’d put it under my hair and cover it with my hair so nobody knew I had ‘em.

At 17, Williams married Chuck. “And that was the love of my life,” she said. “We were together for 53 years until I lost him.”

Work and the kids helped her with the grief. “I came back and I’ve been on the move ever since,” Williams said. In motion with her trusty Sketchers sneakers.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You need them to get around?

Karen Williams: Oh yeah, of course.

Bonnie Lenihan, the school’s director of special ed, has seen Wiliams on the move for years. “I call her Gumby, because she’s so flexible,” Lenihan said. “We can assign her anywhere and she’s happy to go.”

A Super Senior who clearly hears what she brings to this school. “Us senior citizens aren’t old. If we have it in our heart to do something, we’re going to do it,” Williams said.

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