a group of children standing on a stage

Nearly five decades ago, Katherine Caputo began her career as a kindergarten teacher at Key Largo School. Caputo has been a cornerstone of the KLS community since the early years of its founding. Now, after many years of nurturing, inspiring and guiding young students through their inaugural years of schooling, she has retired, leaving behind a legacy of kindness, inspiration and dedication.

The KLS where Caputo worked during her first few years was much smaller than it is today. The school lacked a cafeteria and a middle school, and student lunches were daily transported from the high school. Caputo taught second grade during her first two years of employment, and early on felt a sense of belonging. 

“The school really felt like an extended family,” said Caputo. After receiving a teaching certificate for kindergarten from FIU, Caputo pursued a career of nurturing and educating the school’s youngest learners.

Over the years, Caputo witnessed many changes in the kindergarten environment. In the past, kindergarten held a strong focus on experiential learning as a means for social and emotional development. Many of Caputo’s fondest memories are of “old school” kindergarten, and of the more personal, student-centered instruction that this curriculum allowed. Now, however, the landscape is dominated by a more stringent focus on academics. 

“I believe that the kindergarten students who were allowed to play in a housekeeping center, explore in a sand table, splash in a water table, and build with blocks learned just as much about literacy and math with less stress and many more meaningful experiences,” said Caputo. “The curriculum adapted to the needs of the children, rather than asking the children to adapt to an academic curriculum (they may not have been ready for).” 

She recalls many moments throughout her career when she witnessed students grow and thrive with the “old school” approach. “I remember one year when I had a French-speaking student who was playing with his peers in the housekeeping center,” Caputo reminisced. The student spoke little English, and his classmates, who would respond to him in English, could not understand his native language. “Before long, however, the young boy was speaking to his peers in English. When children are comfortable and motivated, they can be quick learners.”

While kindergarten now maintains a stricter academic focus, leaving less room for experiential learning and creativity in the classroom, many of the things Caputo loved about her job haven’t changed. “I’m glad to say that the inquisitiveness and excitement of the students is still the same,” said Caputo. “Most of the children are eager to come to school and feel that school is fun. … I shall miss all the hugs, drawings, little treasures and the hellos.”

For her colleagues and students, it will be difficult to say goodbye to Caputo. “Her 47 years of dedication and passion for teaching have made a profound impact on countless young lives,” said KLS principal Darren Pais, who has known Caputo for 32 years. “Her wisdom, kindness and passion for teaching have truly enriched our community. I thank her for 47 incredible years.”

Tiffany Zepeda, KLS assistant principal, was taught by Caputo more than three decades ago. “I remember story time in her class vividly. She had an animated way of engaging all of her students in the books we read together, so that I still recall the characters and sing-song lines we would read along with her,” said Zepeda. “Learning was fun and always an experience. She was definitely the spark that ignited my love of learning.”

Almost 20 years later, Zepeda, joining the teaching staff at KLS, got to know Caputo as a colleague. “Kathy inspires those around her,” said Zepeda. “She can always find a solution to the problem and centers her focus on what is best for her students.” 

As for Caputo, her nearly five decades of teaching have given her countless invaluable memories of her students and co-workers alike. “I’m looking forward to the future, although I’m not sure just what I plan to do,” Caputo said. “I have been called Miss Kathy during my entire career; I’ll have to adjust to being Mrs. Caputo now.”

Zack Woltanski
Zack Woltanski is a Coral Shores grad and aspiring novelist. After three years of high school and a gap year in Germany, he will be studying at Brown University, with a potential major in english or philosophy.