Teacher Spotlight – Mr. Kessler, Cascade Middle School

Spotlight  – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in Longview and raised in Toutle. My family on my father’s side lived in Toutle since the 1860’s. Some of the original homesteaders in the Toutle Valley are the Tippery’s, who are in my family tree. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was a Tippery. While my parents still live in Toutle, my family lives in Castle Rock now.

What high school did you attend? I graduated from Toutle High School – class of 1993. The Fighting Ducks!

Mr. Kessler

Where did you go to college? From Toutle High School I enrolled at Lower Columbia College (LCC) then transferred and graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Ellensburg is great, but it’s not “here”.

How is school different now from when you grew up? The transient nature of students is significantly different from when I grew up. The Toutle High School class I graduated with had about 40 kids, most of whom went through K-12 together. You just don’t see that anymore.

Why the transient nature? It’s socioeconomics. People living in poverty, having difficulty finding steady work or a stable place to live.

Where were you on May 18, 1980 when Mt St Helen’s erupted? I was sitting in the dining room learning how to tie my shoes. One of my sisters was helping me get ready for church. The neighbor came over and told us the mountain blew. We were forced to move to Longview for about a month before coming back home.

What memories do you have of the eruption? I remember trying to process the idea that all the logging equipment on the mountain was just gone – vanished. I remember Spirit Lake before the eruption, everything is very different now.

When you left high school, did you want to be a teacher? Being a teacher was in the back of my mind. My parents did not push us into college; they wanted us to find our own way. I think Dad wanted me to be an engineer.

 Did the eruption of Mt St Helens change your career path? The eruption changed the career path for many of us. By some estimates, the eruption blew away about 25 years’ worth of tree cutting. Cutting just wasn’t the same as it had been in the past, with much of the old growth timber gone, many people couldn’t make the same sort of living.

 Do you have a family? Yes, I am married with two kids a girl and a boy. I met my wife Amanda at LCC in an English composition class.

 What was college like? My advisor at LCC, Mike Dugaw, “chewed on me” one day for not being more dedicated to college. He promised a scholarship to LCC if I joined the debate team – which was a turning point in my life. I loved the debate team and solidified the idea of being a teacher.

What are some of the things Mr. Dugaw taught you? He never let us off the hook. Mr. Dugaw always had high expectations for us. Without Mike Dugaw, me staying in college was doubtful.

How did you pick Central Washington University? First, it was the least expensive state school and my sister Jennifer got her accounting degree there. In addition, I liked the town. For a kid from the country I fit in at CWU.

What are some of your college memories? I was accustomed to snow, but didn’t know much about cold weather. You learn “cold” in Ellensburg. I remember an old-timer helping me keep my engine block from freezing by suggesting I place a chicken lamp underneath the truck every night.  

Why did you choose teaching middle school? There is a different feeling in middle school versus elementary or high school. The students bring such energy and enthusiasm – it’s great.

How has teaching social studies changed? Changing family dynamics impact teaching. Many of our kids are dealing with very tough socioeconomic issues, the hierarchy of needs. Compared to when I was in school it’s very different.

What do you do after work? I’m on the Castle Rock City Council, coach football, wrestling and track at Cascade and for the last 17 years I’ve been on the Castle Rock reserve police force.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? The best parts…there are so many. I would say the immediate gratification of a kid learning something and the relationship you build. Then ten years from now, you see an ex-student who’s now a molecular biologist or a sports journalist. It’s so cool to see the students later in life. The impact one person can make on a person’s life can be dramatic.

What are some of the keys to being a good teacher? Get help from other teachers. Dena Enyeart gave me some great material for a lesson on Alexander the Great.

When did you get to Cascade? In the fall of 2002, about 16 years ago. When I first came here I taught science for a while, but teaching history is my passion – my hobby. I read magazines like “Frontiersman Magazine”, I love history.

Are history and science related? Yes, history and science linked. Our country’s advances in medicine, advances in the military all relate back to science. Bringing multi-disciplinary sciences into the classroom to teach history is great. It makes the lessons so much more valuable.

What advice would you have for new teachers? Coming in as a new teacher would be extremely difficult. The biggest thing would be to try to find a way to balance helping kids while still challenging them. Letting them know you care about them as a person, but also as a student who needs to learn – it’s balancing relationship and rigor.

How has your experience in other aspects of life helped your teaching? It helps me understand where many kids are “coming from”. The life experience helps me understand how to help families better. When we talk about the Constitution in class my experience as a police officer and city council person really helps.

What else? I believe in public service and will do whatever I can to help my students be successful.

2018-12-26T08:18:54+00:00December 26th, 2018|
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