It was no easy feat going to Zumba this morning listening to “I’m Sexy and I know it” but I helped myself along the way by imagining my H.S. teacher, Karyn Kay, next to me smiling and dancing. I read that she took Zumba and had told her Zumba teacher that her son was having anger problems.
Karyn Kay was one of my favorite teachers in High School. She was beaten to death last night. By her son.
This devastating news affects me on so many levels: As a mother, as the mother of a child with special needs, as a student, as a teacher, and as an advocate.
I remember it feeling like a privilege to be in her class, even then. I will never forget how she would read an anonymous student’s story some weeks and I will never forget the pride I felt the day she chose mine. I wasn’t a writer but she made me feel like I was. She had us write in a journal and hand in the journal periodically. If something was too private, she told us to fold over the top of the page and she would not read it. I believe to this day that she did not read it.
She did, however, contact parents when she read alarming content in our stories that might indicate that her student was in trouble. Ironic, really, after reading that her neighbors overheard her violent fights in her NYC apartment and talked to the doormen about it. Did anyone ever call child welfare? The police? Did Ms. Kay tell anyone besides her Zumba teacher that her son was violent or that they were having problems at that dangerous a level?
Did stigma or other obstacles keep Ms. Kay from getting help for herself and her son? Did anyone try to intervene to help?
Ms. Kay helped students for nearly thirty years creatively express themselves so that they could be more artistic, confident, comfortable, successful people in their future. She went beyond what many educators do and she got involved if she saw a problem. She saw art and creativity in every student and we all truly felt it.
It pains me to think that her death might have been avoided by people intervening in the appropriate ways at the appropriate times.
Today I think of those who have helped me along my journey and who I have helped . Sometimes we don’t need to wait to be asked to help. I will try to remember this.