Katherine Kraver

Teacher, English Language Learners School; Children’s Author; Age 26

Katherine Kraver

Katherine Kraver

Katherine Kraver jokes that she’s “retiring in reverse.”

That’s a reference to the fact that she’s collecting stamps on her passport — dozens of them — when she’s in her 20s, not 60s, 70s, or 80s. But she’s not traveling to destinations as diverse as Costa Rica, Croatia, India, Jordan, and South Africa to relax, sightsee, and snap photos for albums (although she does some of that).

No, she’s going to learn. Only she has another name for it.

“I keep it to business,” she noted, adding that this means absorbing everything she can about these countries, many of which are the birthplaces of students in her third-grade classroom at the ELL (English Language Learners) School in West Springfield.

“Every school vacation, I pick a student in my classroom, and I travel to their home country to learn more about their culture, customs, language, history, and some of the experiences they may have gone through,” she explained. “Students are more willing to learn when they feel you’re really connected to them, like if I know a little of their language, or a tradition, or something else I can connect to them with.”

And these trips have yielded more than insight, perspective, and those connections. Indeed, they have provided storylines and inspiration to tell those stories, in the form of children’s books told from the perspective of a child.

Her first, It Was Just a House, written when she was just 24, was inspired by her trip to a Middle Eastern refugee camp. Her second, The Boy with the Red Shoes, released last year, was motivated by her trip to Haiti following the earthquake there in 2010.

“I wrote that first book to teach other students about what that child might be bringing into our classroom, and how we can be compassionate and empathetic, as well as to teach my co-workers and adults about these people we know so little about,” she said, adding that it was the same with the second tome.

While she likes to talk about where’s she’s been, Kraver is more fond of discussing where she’s going next, to do more learning and perhaps gain the inspiration to pen additional books.

In fact, just a few days after the 40 Under Forty gala in late June, she’ll be off to Venice and a host of other destinations in Italy.

Retiring in reverse? Not even close. This will be another ‘business’ trip.

—George O’Brien

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