RALPH ASKINS School has been Karrie Pittenger’s second home for most of her life. A safe, inviting environment is the heart of any home. It’s the same atmosphere Pittenger wanted for students and always worked to provide.
Pittenger is from a family of educators. That bloodline and her love for children fueled her desire to become a teacher.
She began as a first and second-grade teacher. After 15 years of teaching, the school’s librarian position opened. Pittenger had a library certification and her master’s degree in administration supervision, so the opportunity was appealing. While she loved having her small classroom of children to nurture, working with all of the school’s children through the library would multiply her blessings. Her experience as a teacher would also give her insight for meeting teachers’ classroom needs. That settled it. She became Ralph Askins’ Librarian and for 22 years has served the teachers and the students, through the library.
“My goal was always to support and enrich teachers’ classroom curriculum through literature, technology, and hands-on experimentation. I [had] hoped to motivate students to love to read and become lifelong readers and help them realize reading opens up a world to just about everything else that comes along,” Pittenger said.
The students’ growth, safety, and well-being have been central to the library’s mission. Watching them learn and seeing their self-confidence build has been rewarding – light-bulb moments that reflect connections and possibilities.
She said, “Ralph Askins has so many great teachers that work hard every day to help the kids be the best they can be. I’ve always felt that educators are given these little minds to mold for the future, and we can have so much influence on them. Over time, I’ve seen more and more students from all walks of life, and some of them are dealing with outside forces we don’t even realize. I think they need more from us than subject matter. We have a job to build their self-esteem and confidence, too. Things we do for them now, can have a great impact as they grow academically and socially. Teachers have a lot of jobs to do at this stage, but it’s a great opportunity for us to make a great impact on them in a lot of ways.”
Running into her prior students affirms this impact. One of Pittenger’s favorite things is reminiscing with students about their past and their memories of the library. As they enter college or the workforce prepared to thrive, their enthusiasm and ambitions bring her great joy.
Ralph Askins is written on most of the pages of Pittenger’s life story. She attended school there as a child, as did her children. It’s more than home; it’s a place in her heart. It’s a connection passed along to her eight-year-old granddaughter.
“We live so close to the school that sometimes she would go with me. And it’s been the best thing for her, too.” Pittenger said that her granddaughter doesn’t focus on technology. “She’s just very interested in the literature and the informational books, and she gets lost in it,” Pittenger said.
She didn’t realize the strength of her granddaughter’s ties to her library until recently.
Pittenger’s career as the school’s librarian closed with the 2021-22 school year. Her retirement will begin with the usual transitions and include more time with her family, but her granddaughter will miss her library.
Pittenger said, “My retirement was a hard decision, but I’ve been excited about it. My family’s excited that I will have more time to spend with them. But my granddaughter began to cry. I couldn’t figure out why. I wasn’t expecting her response, ‘I love that library. That’s one of my favorite things to do is to come to spend time with you in that library.’ That caught me off guard. I know she’s right. It is a special place, a very special place.”
And it will continue to be a special place as the new librarian opens the doors this fall. Pittenger knows Mrs. Brittany Barnett will be a blessing to the children, and she’ll support her through the transition.
From there, she will ease into the next chapter of her life. Pittenger looks forward to family time, including more fun times with her three grandchildren. Some travel may be in her future, too. But if her heart longs for home, she’s close enough to return from time to time.
Pittenger said, “I could not have asked the Lord to put me on a better path. He put me on the path with the support system of the wonderful teachers and administrators around me that let me do what I have loved for so long. Seeing students as adults thriving in their lives with their own families and in the workforce or whatever they’re doing is such a blessing to me. It makes me feel that I’m a very lucky girl.” GN