The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

The student news site of Oviedo High School in Oviedo, FL

Oviedo Journalism

Q&A with Mrs. McKernan

Mrs. Kimberly McKernan celebrates her 50th birthday with her Oviedo family
Traiz Zakaria
Mrs. McKernan celebrates a spirit day with her customary tutu and headband.

How long have you been teaching?

This is, I believe, my 26th year. I started in ‘99.

At Oviedo?

No, I can’t remember if we moved here [to Florida]  in 2011 or 2012, but the first year here I was teaching at an elementary school, 5th grade, all subjects. Then the following year I got here [Oviedo High], so this is year 11.

How was it jumping from 5th grade to 9th?

Well, when I moved from Mississippi, I was at the high school level. So I went from high school to 5th grade. Middle school you just teach one subject all day long, kind of like you do in high school. So jumping to 5th grade was extremely strange and difficult because of having to teach all the subjects- and I’m not a fan of math.

Was that the only hard part? 

I was at a really bad school. I was at a D school, horrible home life of the kids, so classroom management and really getting to know the kids helped, with having kids in your class who should be in 9th grade, but they’re in 5th grade. And trying to explain to them how important education was, with parents who didn’t care, trying to stop the cycle. 

It was definitely an interesting school, loved the kids, felt really sorry for the kids, but I had to get out. It was not good for me, and it was really easy to leave, just because of how miserable of a year I had there. And it wasn’t the kids, it was the administration, but if I would have been a first year teacher at that school I’d’ve quit and stop teaching. It was just horrible.

What prompted the move from Mississippi to Florida?

Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005, we got four and a half feet of water. We didn’t lose our home but we lost all of our possessions. We had the right insurance that the company paid us for all of it, but we started to see our neighborhood start to go down. We wanted more opportunities for our children. 

We were actually going to go up north. I had a teaching license in North Carolina, Virginia, and I think South Carolina. My sister’s been here for 25 years and was like “Come to Florida!” and I was like “We want to see all of the seasons, we don’t want to come to Florida, we want to be in the country not in the city.” 

She said “Find my house, go 25 or 30 miles east and you’ll find the country.” And that’s what we did, we came over one weekend, found a house, put in a bid, and got outbid. We sent my sister over, and she found a house in that neighborhood. I was like “Is this what we’re looking for?” 

She said yes, and we put in the bid without even seeing the house, and ended up getting it. Having chickens and horses and ducks and the big property and the land has allowed the kids to have a really interesting life. Versus the suburban lifestyle that I grew up in.

You had mentioned administration making a big difference. Is administration here better?

I’ve been teaching for long enough that my first administrator was a history teacher that I actually had in middle school. My first school that I taught at was my middle school, so for him to be my administrator, I was just like “I remember the kind of teacher you were, and you were horrible. I can’t imagine the kind of administrator you are.” And he was pretty much the same way, it was really wonky. 

Here, when the doors are open, the doors are open. They’re always willing to have those conversations. It’s nice to have good administration now.

What class did you start teaching here first?

It’s not even here anymore, I had 2 classes of sociology, a semester elective. and then I had all standard US history, and then they asked for 7th period AP Human. After my 3rd year here I took over AP Human.

How does your teaching strategy vary from teaching an elective to standard to honors to AP classes?

I can do everything that I do in my AP classes, in my standard classes. It’s just the way that I do it differs. Even at the beginning of the year in an AP class, I have to be elementary about it. It’s the planning and the willingness of the teacher to let that happen.

AP Human is a freshman class, have you taught all grades?

The only grade I haven’t taught a core class is senior. I’ve done world history, US history, I used to do an ACT prep class in Mississippi, but I’ve never done Economics or Government.

Do you have a preference of grade level?

I don’t have a preference of grade level. I could probably teach AP Human to anyone. I just really like AP Human. Even though it’s in the social science realm it’s not a history class. Not saying that I don’t like world [history], talking about history is fine, but in this class we’re really talking about the people and what is happening and why. 

What’s the biggest thing you notice from the new freshman in their first ever AP class?

The biggest thing that I talk to them about the first couple weeks of school and curriculum night is that the majority of straight A middle school students, they’re very smart, but they’ve never had to study. And so they don’t know how to study. When they jump from 8th grade to freshman year, they don’t understand that they’re looking at college books and SAT level questions. 

That’s the hardest part, it’s not that they don’t know the content, it’s that they don’t know how to study and read those really high level questions. 

You’re 50. How does 50 feel?

40 was worse! At 40 my eyesight went, my migraines got worse. 50 is weird. When my mom was 50 I was 8. She had me when she was 42, and my idea of 50 then was bouffant hair, old lady, walking around with a walker. 

Even though that wasn’t my mom. My mom would still play basketball with me in the front yard past 50, and she was really active with my kids. 

I had 4 kids under the age of 4 at 30. In the moment of it being crazy, you’re like “Oh my god, when is it going to be over,” and when it’s over you’re just “Okay I miss that, and no one is in the house now.” But my husband and I are still young enough that we can go do stuff, and once our kids start having kids, we can be really involved. 

50’s not what you think 50 is in your mind. 30 and 40 aren’t either. It’s definitely strange to see the shift in perspective once you get older. 

You are so spirited. Where does the inspiration for all of your outfits come from?

I always got into the homecoming stuff. With homecoming or dress up days, the more that you get into it, the more the kids want to get into it too. And then it’s interesting for the kids, the variety and surprise. 

And I just enjoy it because we made it to Friday. It’s a great way to start the weekend. It pumps the kids up 1st and 2nd period, to kind of wake them up in the morning with the loud music and stuff. 

The other day I was like “I’m almost 50. I’m almost 50 and I’m putting on a blow-up dinosaur costume. What am I going to look like 10 years from now, am I going to be putting these costumes on?” 

Do you see yourself teaching still in the future? How long do you plan to go?

For retirement I have to go at least to 25 years here. I don’t know. My daughter is working on her own business right now, and if she gets it off the ground that could give me and my husband another outlet. I don’t know if I could do it for 15 more years. 15 more years, on top of the 25 already, that’s a lot. I don’t know. 

How do you feel about the state of teaching in Florida now?

The requirements they keep putting on us, the things that we’re required to do as far as curriculum, and the things that we are supposed to pay attention to every single student are difficult. 

And my pay is still at the same level. When they upped the pay for new teachers, but not for veteran teachers it told all the veteran teachers that you really don’t care about us. And what you see at Oviedo, young teachers are leaving the profession and going to find something with better pay. Even old teachers are like “you know, I really could have done a few more years, but I might retire early.” 

It’s sad that this state hasn’t realized that.

You have this personality, and this reputation. Sometimes people are scared of you. How do you feel about that?

I’m perfectly fine with that. Some kids are even still scared of me in the classroom. I think that’s funny. It’s just that there’s a standard. and my bar is high, and I want you to reach that bar. 

You have to- in the first week of school- get control of your students. If you don’t, then you’re not going to teach them anything for the rest of the year. There are certain ways that I like things done that work for me and my personality in the classroom. 

I’m very much “follow through on your actions and words”. I parented that way. My kids know, when you do this again, this will happen. Versus “I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna”. When they think I’m stricter, or they’re scared of me, or whatever, they’re just not used to the follow through or such a high bar placed in front of them. 

And I believe they can reach that bar, and I’m going to help them, which is why my scores are the way that they are. The kids are listening to me, and passing. I get emails from students the day the scores come out “I got a 5! You told me I was going to get a 5 but I didn’t believe it!” 

How was high school for you?

I was a B, C, D student in high school, it was hard for me. There were no phones or anything. I try to cover all of the different learning styles so that I’m covering everyone. I was an A student in college because I struggled in high school.

How do you feel about technology playing such a role in education now? 

I don’t think it does. I mean, I love the new law [banning cellphone use in classrooms] that was passed, and I love that it’s a state law. I like that it’s [cellphone] off your person. I love that the students are chit-chatting about the movie that they’re going to see, instead of taking pictures of themselves in the back of the class. 

Now, I hate that the algebra tests and some AP tests are going to computers. I’m not a computer tester, I like being able to mark and work on the paper. 

How does teaching with the use of technology compare?

I’ve taught with an overhead projector. I’ve taught on chalkboards. Having the computer with the agenda for the day, saying “This is what we’re doing for today, this is the homework” and those daily reminders are really cool and interesting parts.

Canvas is cool and those parts are wonderful, but sometimes those parts in the classroom aren’t used. I’ll have a student be like “Mrs. McKernan I don’t know what this word means” and I’m like “You have a computer. Click a new tab and look it up?” I’m confused, you have all this technology and you don’t know what to do with it. We don’t use it to the degree that it could really be used. 

What is your favorite type of student?

That’s a really hard question. When it comes to trying to pick class clown or smartest or whatever, there’s always a variety of those kids in the classroom, so having that variety is way better than having an entire class of class clowns or an entire class of quiet ones. An entire class of quiet and shy kids would be like “Okay, well who am I talking to? Let me know that you are alive.” 

Having a variety of them in the classroom is nice, because at least they can work together in their tables, having the conversations that everyone is learning from.

You’ve had so many students that- maybe they didn’t like you at the beginning- but they definitely like you now. How do you feel about them coming back and seeing you and hanging out with you?

I had a group that every morning, about 6 of them would come in and hang out. I’d be like “how y’all doing? Hows swimming, your hair is all wet.” They’ve got one eye open cause they’re still asleep. So that’s cool that I get to see them. And because I’m involved with helping my husband coach JV lacrosse, whether I teach the kids or not, they’re still coming by in season or not. It’s always cool that they like stopping by, and I get to ask them about classes this year. 

It’s no different than when you run into kids who graduated high school. 2 years ago my husband and I flew back to Mississippi because a student of mine that I had taught in middle school was getting married. And then she’s having a baby, so we got an invite to the shower, so it’s really cool to see that now. 

And even now, we’re being invited to Sweet 16s, to quinceaneras, as their teachers or as their coaches. So it’s just that these kids are understanding what we’re telling them about not just education but life in general, and they’re inviting us to these events. 

It comes back to tell us, I really am a good teacher, I am a good coach, and I’m making those connections with these kids. 


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    TrennaMar 26, 2024 at 8:27 AM

    I really liked how the interviewer was asking personal questions to Mrs. McKernan,  for example “Sometimes people are scared of you. How do you feel about that?” Because I think it’s really something funny to bring up. I also liked reading this because Mrs. McKernan is one of my teachers and it helps me understand her methods in the classroom more, and I think the interviewer did a great job at getting her full and honestly responses.