Ketchum makes learning magical for the students of Macks Creek

Joyce Miller
newsroom@lakesunonline.com

The Future Depends on Teachers

One year ago, the unthinkable happened — our nation’s schools had to shut their doors. The COVID-19 pandemic hit our K-12 teachers hard. Yet despite incredible challenges, our teachers are innovating and rising to meet this new reality head-on. One of the lessons that really hit home as a result of the pandemic was how critical teachers are to our educational and economic recovery.

Missouri is facing a historic shortage of teachers, which may be compounded by the pandemic. Our schools are struggling to find enough teachers to fill their classrooms. In the 2019-20 school year, there were just over 6,200 open teaching positions in Missouri. Of those positions, 145 remained unfilled and 308 positions were filled with inadequately qualified teachers. Educator preparation programs at institutions of higher education, with a decline of over 25 percent in teacher candidate enrollment over the past six years, are not producing enough new teachers to fill our classrooms.

Over the course of this week, the Lake Sun will feature stories of teachers around the lake and the importance they hold within their districts. 

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Carrin Ketchum and a Macks Creek student.

There’s an abundance of magical fun in Carrin Ketchum’s classroom. When children learn, when they grasp a new concept, Ketchum says it’s “magical.” 

The first-grade teacher’s philosophy is simple…children learn when they are having fun so each day in her classroom in Macks Creek, she focuses on making learning exciting and engaging to keep young minds engaged and interested. And that’s no easy task with a class full of active and inquisitive six and seven-year-olds. 

So just how do you keep a classroom full of first-graders entertained and learning at the same time? Ketchum said she has found keeping the students focused on games and multi-sensory activities works effectively, providing the combination of fun and learning that grabs the attention of first-graders. 

“We spend a lot of time learning to read in first grade, so it's important to keep it fun. This week I turned our classroom into a campsite with a tent and kayak for special reading areas,” Ketchum said. ”Math is a favorite subject for many of my students because it is very hands-on. Right now we are learning to count the value of coins and tell time to the half-hour. Last month in science, we observed caterpillars turn to chrysalides and then emerge as beautiful butterflies. It was magical! Every day is a new adventure.”

Books and reading are also an important part of her curriculum. Her favorite is “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Lobel. 

“I love these stories because they tackle the big topics like fear, worry, patience, forgiveness and friendship through the mishaps and adventures of Forad and Toal,” she said. 

Teaching elementary school is actually Ketchum’s “second act” career. She spent most of her career working with young learners, as a preschool teacher, Girl Scout leader and as a children’s church director. 

“I love working with kids because when learning happens, it’s magical. I couldn’t imagine going to a job where I wasn’t surrounded by magic. I love working in a small district,” Ketchum said. “I was raised and went to school in the small town of Arma, Kansas so small schools have always been a part of my life.”

 The Macks Creek community is centered around the school. It is encouraging to see the community and families invested in the students, she said. 

For those considering teaching as a career choice, Ketchum advice is to strive every day to be the kind of teacher you wish you had. 

Ketchum has been married for 23 years and is the mom to a set of college-aged twins. Outside of teaching, Ketchum’s enthusiasm for fun includes anything that involves hanging out with her family. She and her family are avid campers and enjoy kayak fishing. She also enjoys reading, crafting and quilting for relaxation. 

Ketchum is from southeast Kansas. She attended Labette Community College, Central Methodist University and got her master’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University.