by Grace Talusan
Biology teacher Kathy Karch wears a lot of hats at Pingree. She coaches the science team, keeps score for Varsity Volleyball and JV Basketball, is an active member of Green Team, and has been tasked with restructuring Pingree's Danish exchange program. Unsurprisingly, she leads an equally active life outside of school, making decisions based on her interests, passions, and concerns. "Keep yourself open and the universe will be good to you," Kathy says. "When you're closed off, it's really hard to pry yourself back open."
Kathy's love for her children and her concern for climate change led to her work as an environmental activist with the Salem Alliance for the Environment (SAFE). "When I think about the effects of climate change, I realize how hard life may one day be for my children," she says. So she asked herself: "What am I doing to actively ensure that they have a survivable future?" In addition to her work with SAFE, Kathy undertook a two year-long urban homesteading project in an effort to grow food for her family and teach her children where food comes from, including meat. Due to last summer's severe drought, her family decided to let their garden sit fallow for a year, but Kathy, who touts a permanent edible landscape of fruit trees, asparagus, rhubarb, numerous herbs, blackberries and strawberries, was still able to eat off her land.
Kathy has worked with fellow community activists on energy solutions for reducing Salem's overall carbon footprint in New England. Last summer, she collaborated with SAFE and a researcher from Boston University to map each gas leak on the 94 miles of street in Salem. They hope to use this data to educate legislators and representatives and effect changes to existing laws in a way that will incentivize gas companies like National Grid, who oversee Boston and Salem, to repair leaking infrastructure. It's not an easy process, but Kathy is determined to create positive change. "It's a sticky, uphill process," Kathy says. "But unless people push, it certainly won't change itself."
Kathy has also recently rekindled a love for writing. After 16 years of teaching, she's back on the other side of the desk as a graduate student earning an MFA in creative writing at Lesley University. Becoming a student again has renewed her empathy with regard to the challenges and struggles that her Pingree students have to face and overcome. She tries to get the message out to her students to keep themselves balanced and to try their best. "Do your best and you will land on your feet," she tells them.