Honoring Our 2021 Retirees: Mrs. Barbara Kurlander


Elena Zhang

She’s a familiar face at South, and although she wasn’t physically in school this past year, Ms. Barbara Kurlander has taught many of South High’s students over the past several decades. “If you do the math, I have interacted with over 4000 students over the years!” she said. Ms. Kurlander has been teaching for 44 years, 42 of which have been at South. 

Ms. Kurlander has taught many of the math classes offered, and has even taught Computer Programming and Psychology. She loved to start discussions when students knew very little about a concept. She then helped people to not only understand but also to apply those concepts. “Most people can learn anything if it is broken down into little pieces,” she said.

While the students learn, Ms. Kurlander learns from them as well: she is able to figure out challenges when interacting with others. She sees each class with its own personality, which presents a different adventure every period.

Before teaching, she had briefly considered becoming an actress because she was very involved in theatre. After figuring out that she liked math, social interactions, problem solving, and challenges, Ms. Kurlander thought it made perfect sense to become a math teacher. “[It’s like] I got to perform five performances a day!”

Due to the pandemic, this year’s performances were completely different. Ms. Kurlander has been teaching from home this year. “I had to get really good at all aspects of the technology fast!” she said. Using Zoom and Google Classroom presents its own number of challenges, like when students have their cameras off or when Google Classroom isn’t loading. However, she has tried to work past the challenges of online learning, “I tried to avoid letting any setbacks and difficulties bother me so I could give my students the best possible remote experience.”

After retirement, Ms. Kurlander plans to stay active and involved. Her hobbies include golf, reading, and spending time with friends and family. She is considering taking courses, or even teaching them at the college level. She may travel or do volunteer work. “I’m really not sure what I am going to do but I’m excited to continuously figure it out.” 

Ms. Kurlander’s advice is to continue pushing onwards.”Recent times have been tough, but keep an optimistic outlook, take every opportunity to learn and be the best you can.” She also hopes more girls and women will choose to pursue fields in STEM. 

In high school, Ms. Kurlander was only one of two females taking a computer class. Now, she is proud to have two daughters in STEM: one is a computer software engineer and the other is a physical therapist. She is happy to see more females getting involved, and hopes she has inspired some other young girls to do so.