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OHS Art Teacher Packs Up Her Easel
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OHS Visual Arts Teacher Nancy Kern, center, sits among her AP Visual Arts students during her countdown class to retirement. The teacher has worn a bright yellow post it bearing the number of days left until the last day of school for the better part of the past three weeks. Kern has taught Art for 40 years. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It’s been 40 years since Nancy Kern first set foot in a classroom to begin her career as an educator. On Thursday, May 25 the Oakdale High School Art teacher will report to her class one final time, as she concludes her 16 years serving with the Oakdale Joint Unified School District.

“I just can’t do it anymore,” Kern said of her choice to retire. “I’ve been mulling this over for three years. It just hit me a couple of months ago. I’m done.”

Done teaching, that is.

“I’m 68 years old,” she continued, “and I’ve still got a lot of zing in me.”

Not one to sit idle and watch the world pass, Kern has begun filling her calendar with plans of travel beginning with her 50th High School Reunion in August and a trip to see her daughter in Texas to welcome the arrival of her first grandchild. Beyond that, Kern intends to add to her passport by visiting another daughter in Germany.

The travel enthusiast has visited 32 countries, as well as lived and taught in Nicaragua.

“I want to go to Spain,” she said. “It’s one place I’ve not been. I’d love to go to Japan. I really want to go to Cuba. Cuba … I can’t wait to go for the culture.”

While those plans are pending, the adventure seeker also expects to do lots of camping and fishing while still stateside, activities that she thoroughly enjoys doing.

In the way of art and education, Kern shared that her passion for the subject stems back to early childhood, noting accolades and recognition early on as instrumental in her development and continued passion.

“In third grade I did a drawing of my teacher,” she said, “and she had it matted and framed and put it over her fireplace.”

To show her appreciation the teacher hosted Kern and her family for dinner.

“It just made me feel so good,” Kern shared. “I’ve always had a love for art.”

It is a love which she shares with 200 OHS students daily, as she’s taught Visual Arts 1 through 4, as well as Advanced Placement Visual Arts; a college level course for juniors and seniors.

“I love teaching advanced placement,” she said, explaining that she first began teaching the class 15 years ago. “It’s just my favorite. The kids really get to go in their own direction.”

The art teacher also shared her pleasure with the talent, as well as the support offered to the art program throughout Oakdale High School.

“We’re very valued here and our kids always knock it out at the Art Shows. We always win,” she said.

But now it’s Kern’s turn to knock it out and spend her days committed solely to her passion and travel. The artist plans to continue with her jewelry making and submitting work to area art shows. While she is excited and ready, a couple of things will never change; her love of art and … the students.


“The students,” she said of what she’ll miss the most. “I’m gonna miss ‘em. I’m gonna miss ‘em a lot.”