A mindset of success

First Posted: 6/6/2014

Newton Ransom Elementary School First Grade Teacher Karen Pocius may not, in real life, take her class on magical field trips to outer space via a school-bus-turned-spaceship, as does her character Miss Frizzle in the school’s recent Arts Alive production “Lost in the Cosmos.” But those who had the opportunity of getting to know her during her almost 40-year teaching career, attest to the same dynamic personality found in both fictional character and real-life educator.

According to one of her peers, Newton Ransom Fourth Grade Teacher Becky Kameroski, anyone who teaches first grade for over 30 years must be at least a little bit like Miss Frizzle: “able to multi-task and do crazy things, and be willing to be daring and wild.”

“For Miss Frizzle, it’s all about wanting to bring the world alive for a young kid,” Kameroski said, “and open their eyes to what can be, and the hopes and dreams. And I think it was just really perfect that she was Miss Frizzle, cruising through the cosmos, lost in the solar system, because that’s kind of like saying, ‘there’s no limits to what you can do,’ and I think that’s kind of what Karen Pocius is probably all about.”

Pocius, 60, began teaching at Newton Ransom 35 years ago, and taught four years prior to that in the Charles County Public Schools district in Maryland. She is retiring from her teaching career at the end of this school year, but her plans for the future don’t involve much slowing down.

The Factoryville resident said she hopes to become a certified CrossFit trainer and move south.

Already well on her way to the first part of this goal, Pocius said she became a member of CrossFit Scranton about two-and-a-half years ago, and recently qualified for the world games in California next month.

“That’s what helps me with teaching,” she said, laughing. “Being in shape gives me the energy to keep up with my first graders all day long.”

But according to Newton Ransom and South Abington Elementary Principal Robert Bugno, Pocius doesn’t have much trouble keeping up. He said during his 21 years of working with her, he has yet to see “one ounce of change in her excitement for what she does.”

“If you walked in to her classroom,” he said, “you wouldn’t think she was winding down, you would think she was winding up.”

Bugno described Pocius’ personality as “determined” with a “mindset of success,” saying her students succeed largely because she has faith they will succeed, and she brings out the best in them.

“She sets out on a mission,” he said, “and she doesn’t stop until she gets there. It doesn’t matter what it is — if it’s something for the betterment of the climate of the school, if it’s something she’s trying to accomplish with a child — she’s a great leader. She’s very confident in what she does, and when she goes after things, she pursues them with a zeal that’s unparalleled. And it makes her very, very special.”

Bugno, who has 36 years of experience as a principal, is also planning to retire at the end of this school year. He said he first started at Newton Ransom and South Abington elementary schools 21 years ago, and was the Abington Heights High School Assistant Principal for nine years prior. He also served as Principal at Lourdesmont for six years.

Pocius said one of the highlights of her career was getting to work alongside the well-liked principal.

“Mr. Bugno puts the kids first,” she said, “so at Newton Ransom, the kids come before anything else. And that is my philosophy also, so it’s been a perfect match for me to be working with him all these years. …He makes personal connections with all of the students. In my classroom, he comes in and gives them their 100 Book Challenge metals and they all have their photographs taken with Mr. Bugno, and that’s a huge deal for them.”

Kameroski echoed these statements, saying, “He’s very approachable. He really truly loves the students, and they know that. Even when they’re in trouble, they know that they’re in safe hands with him and that he’s going to want them to be the best they can be.”

In addition to working with Bugno, Pocius said she’s also enjoyed working with the other staff and teachers at the school, and especially teaching first grade along with Sherri Sickler since 1995.

“Working with her [Sickler] for 19 years,” she said, “has been absolutely wonderful.”

She added the amount of parent and family involvement at the school is also a major support for the teachers and makes their jobs “a lot easier.”

Pocius’ advice to new teachers and those hoping to one day begin a teaching career is to simply focus on the students.

“Remember that the children are the most important part of the job,” she said. “And that sometimes academics has to take a back seat to their emotional state. You have to deal with them as children before you can deal with them as learners.”

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