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The Panther Press

Capturing the wisdom of a sweet, unstoppable force

Image+taken+by+Aarya+Chowdhry
Image taken by Aarya Chowdhry

Allow me to take this opportunity to transport you from the gratifying hills around you at San Domenico. Imagine a sunny afternoon. It is a brightly lit day. You brush the light breeze off your face. You look up at the sky. The birds are singing your name and the clouds are realigning to let the sun pour over you. You are running across a farm and life is beautiful. You can smell the flora around you. Your grandparents are waiting by a door, watching as you, at seven years old, seize the day with your spirit. Nothing in this world could ever ruin this moment or its memory in your heart for you. 

During her childhood in Fremont, Nebraska, an hour drive away from her grandparents farm, Karlyn Strand, who is finishing more than two and a half decades of working at San Domenico this year, had some similar experiences growing up. For most of her years at San Domenico, Strand has held the role of the school’s librarian. However, her actions and her life experiences, not only inside but also outside the library, continue to serve as inspiration to everybody around her and stretch her impact at SD beyond her role. 

In a world where individuals oftentimes care more for themselves than they do about the community around them, true inspiration comes from those who treat their community with the same compassion as they would treat their own family, whose kindness is reflected in the smile that greets you when they walk into a room. And Strand, according to more than one of her colleagues, and more than one of the students she has supported, embodies all of that in addition to being grounded and constantly contributing to San Domenico’s community in more than one way. 

While completing her degree in Counseling Psychology from UC Berkeley, Strand also completed four years of extensive writing and then went on to continue writing in different ways. She worked in the software industry, carrying out technical writing and enjoys writing to this day. “It is a skill I use all the time,” Strand said.

Even though for most of her years at San Domenico, Strand has held the role of our librarian, her impact on this campus has been beyond the brightly lit glass walls of our library. Strand also worked in the school’s lower school for several years, contributing to the kindergarten’s phonics program. Once she demonstrated proficiency in phonics and writing skills, she continued to work with the fourth and fifth grades on writing before she returned to the library. 

Strand’s engagement with the ABC room for kindergartener’s was not only an immense support for the program, but also added to her skill base of working with the younger group. Now, in addition to being our librarian, she supports the older students in the Writing and Research Center at San Domenico. 

However, in the midst of handling several roles at this school, Strand was also raising her two children, who are both now adults with an impressive education and fascinating careers in the STEM field. Both Sara and Eric, Strand’s daughter and son, attended San Domenico from Pre K to eighth grade. 

“I never anticipated them going beyond a bachelor’s degree,” Strand said. “But they’ve both gotten masters and now PhD’s.” Strand believes that her work at San Domenico in the library emphasized the importance of education in her household. 

As someone who was so evidently managing two challenging and meaningful jobs at the same time effectively, she spreads her light to both at home and at work.

One of Strand’s most unforgettable memories from her days at San Domenico occurred on a day of significant mourning and loss for this country: Sep. 11, 2001. It was commonplace for her to listen to the news every morning, which is how she heard about the twin towers and the airplane crash. Everybody was in a state of uncertainty. A million questions accompanied the fear and the noise of jets soaring over Marin County to protect the coastline. People were asking questions like, “What should we do?” and  “Should we shelter in place?” 

Strand was not only working at San Domenico at the time but her kids were attending San Domenico as well. Therefore, that day, she came to school. “[It seemed] the best thing [was] to just stay with the schedule and to move through it,” Strand said. The first thing Strand had to do when she came to school that day was read aloud to the kindergarteners. 

At first, she did not know what to do. “It was such an upsetting day, and they were probably upset,” Strand said. “So, I bounced in. I had some very uplifting books. And within a few minutes, they were laughing and joking.”

Connecting with people helps us move forward

— Karlyn Strand

For her, it was a reminder that life goes on.

“Connecting with people helps us move forward,” Strand said. 

Having seen San Domenico through some of history’s brutal tragedies including COVID, since the moment she came into her position to this day, Strand has not only simply been “a good human” to be around, as Adam Rosenthal, an academic coach at San Domenico and a part of the student support team and the learning resource center, put it but also has maintained a “consistent flow of kindness,” Rosenthal said. She has been a colleague, a mentor and a friend to Rosenthal ever since he started working at San Domenico two and a half years ago. 

In addition to the significance that her presence holds, her life is just as inspiring to those around her. Currently, Strand is remodeling her house with her partner, Bruce. The house was built in 1960 by the shop class at Drake High under the guidance of their then shop teacher for $20,000. “My partner is a contractor and when I moved in with him a decade ago, we had all these ideas of how we could improve this house,” Strand said. “And it’s been very satisfying, because what we’ve created is actually what we envisioned.”

Strand and her partner have been working on the house for the past decade and it is their dream “to upgrade it to realize its potential,” Strand said. “So that’s a big part of my life. If I’m not reading or hiking, I’m working on the house.”

However, this dream is not only meaningful to Strand but also to those around her who are inspired by her many talents and skills. Rosenthal, who experienced their effort on the house in person, was blown away. 

“It is kind of amazing that she has this full time role here where sometimes she has to stay here till 6:00 p.m. after opening the library first thing in the morning, and then she still has the energy to go home, and do…this home project,” Rosenthal said. “She’s so talented in a multitude of ways and I don’t think anybody knows. And even I don’t know the full breadth of her skill set because there’s all these little things that pop up.

She’s just committed to her practice and her daily giving of love and I think that expands outwards into any projects she’s doing.”

In addition to sharing her skills and her experience with the San Domenico community, Strand has also been a role model for work-life balance. As a multi-talented person, she is also an environmentalist and someone who cares deeply about social issues. 

“I think that in this performative world, with social media, and..all this glitzy stuff that makes everyone seem more…powerful than they are, she’s [Strand] the opposite of that,” Rosenthal said. “And it’s such a refreshing thing to just have someone who’s so solid in themselves and be the same at home as she is at work and in her community.”

Amongst all her colleagues, there is an overwhelming sense of appreciation for Strand and it stems from more than just her efforts. It stems from who she is and how she chooses to interact with people and share her impact, every single day. 

Ciarrai Donnelly, who has been working with Strand for the past eleven months as the Library Assistant, agrees with Rosenthal’s description of Strand’s kind presence. “She’s always doing things like organizing gift cards when people have babies and birthdays,” Donnelly said. “And she picks up roses for the library every week.” 

She just adds her little magic to everything that she does.

Over the past 26 years, Strand has spread joy and exemplified stability amongst many other things in her life at this school.  She is a living evidence to the idea that individuals have the potential to positively impact their surroundings through their experiences. 

 

Bonus

And now,  for those of you who are wondering, Strand’s current favorite book is the most recent book she has been reading. It is called “Letters from Tove” by Tove Jansson. According to Strand, it is an interesting and thought provoking read that talks about the challenges of being an artist and work-life balance amongst many other meaningful themes. 

 

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About the Contributor
Aarya Chowdhry, Head Copy Editor
Hello! I am a senior at San Domenico School and a contributor to The Panther Press. I have a passion for learning and researching. I love writing about women's rights and social justice. Other than that, I am a fan of badminton, YAF novels and writing poetry!

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