Karen Holland Named 2021 SISD Legacy Award Honoree
Beloved, long-time Sunnyvale ISD teacher Ms. Karen Holland has received the Sunnyvale Alumni Association’s Legacy Award for 2021.
Ms. Holland has the distinction of being the Sunnyvale ISD employee who taught the most years in a Sunnyvale ISD classroom - 40 years. She retired in 2020.
During that time, she taught American History, Texas History, World Geography, Theatre Arts and World History. She also coached volleyball for eight years, sponsored the cheerleaders for six years and advised the yearbook staff.
She also touched the lives of countless Sunnyvale kids.
“Karen Holland helped shape the person I am today,” alumna Carmen James Elder (SJH ‘88) said. “She loved me at times I felt unlovable and showed tough love when I needed it. I wanted to be just like her. She is the best motivational speaker I have ever heard and she could get us so fired up about all the injustices in the world. She stood for all things RIGHT!”
Ms. Holland began working for Sunnyvale ISD in 1980 after being hired by long-time Superintendent Gwinn Blankenship - believe it or not - over the phone. After interviewing with Highland Park ISD, Mr. B caught wind that a talented young History teacher was available for hire.
“Mr. B heard that I was looking for a job and had interviewed at Highland Park,” she said. “He called their district office and they gave him my contact information. He called me at my best friend’s house and would you believe he hired me right then over the phone?”
She spent the next 40 years in service to SISD, guiding students and teaching them about history and life.
“What I loved about teaching in Sunnyvale is the relationship we built with the kids,” Ms. Holland said. “As soon as they left for high school, they became our friends. Here I am 40 years later and I have former students who call me regularly and take care of me as they would their parents. I just love that that happens. Where else in America does that happen except Sunnyvale, Texas?”
Sunnyvale students were drawn to Ms. Holland’s student-friendly teaching style and her approachable manner. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders were able to easily grasp concepts through her fun and easy-to-understand lessons. Annually, Raiders learned about the history of the siege of the Alamo, memorized Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” and battled each other for points playing Jeopardy! while in Miss Holland’s classroom.
“Ms. Holland is not just everyone’s favorite teacher; she is that mother figure who you never want to disappoint,” Alumnus Travis Williams (SJH ‘85) said. “She has always been a true blessing in my life.”
Ms. Holland also drove a bus route for 22 years and a half years.
“One of my favorite memories is when I would be driving in the afternoon bus route and we would sing, ‘Love Potion Number 9,’” she said. “I taught [the song] to all of the kids and we would sing it and it would calm the whole bus down. It was hysterical.”
The Legacy Award was designed by the Alumni Association as a way to honor members of the SISD faculty and staff who played a significant role in their educations.
“It’s important to honor the special faculty and staff members who made such an important impression on those of us who grew up Sunnyvale,” Sunnyvale Alumni Association President Codie Stidham said. “Not only is it the very least we can do after all they did for us, but it’s a great way to model respect for the current students of Sunnyvale.”