Karina Casarrubias began her service to Hiawatha as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member, where she served as a kindergarten co-teacher with Katie Houlihan at HLA – Northrop. She learned a lot from her mentor, and was able to really spread her wings when she had the chance to lead in her own classroom this year.

Karina learned about Hiawatha Academies at a TFA hiring fair for the midwest region. She was drawn to our charter network because we offer a tight sense of community, strong systems of support for teachers, actively involved parents, and she met campus leaders who were warm and welcoming. “I really felt like Hiawatha would give me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally,” she said.

She has certainly grown a lot during her time at Hiawatha. Scholars in her classroom are still talking about a lesson she planned in February in which they made predictions about what would happen after dropping candies in vinegar, water and soda. They have made amazing progress at writing, reading and developing other skills that will certainly help them accelerate their learning even further when they enter first grade.

Karina is most excited to lead her class as they learn about other countries in their Festival of Nations celebration later this spring. In Festival of Nations, elementary-age scholars explore countries through multiple perspectives (people, cultures, languages, etc.) and delve much deeper than simple “food, fun and flags” curriculum. “It is so important for scholars to learn about other cultures, and that is an experience that a lot of other elementary schools don’t offer,” Karina said.

When Karina isn’t teaching she enjoys going for runs around Minneapolis lakes and using her love for exercise as an excuse to explore new neighborhoods around the Twin Cities. After a car accident a few years ago she thought she would never run again, but she was determined to continue chasing her dream. Through a lot of hard work and training Karina completed the Nike Women’s San Francisco half marathon last year. “As I crossed the finish line I was overwhelmed with emotion,” she recalled. “I was so proud of myself and I hope to keep that momentum going.” This year, she will compete in runs around the Twin Cities in July, September and October.