Sharing an article
- This article recently appeared in the University of Inerscholastic
By RICHARD KOTRLA
Hitchcock High School
I have the best job in the world.
I am a high school teacher.
It just took me 48 years to find this wonderful job.
I teach at Hitchcock High School, a Class 2A school
with an enrollment of 335 students located in Galveston
County. My teaching assignments include speech, journalism
and theatre arts. In addition to serving as adviser of
the yearbook and newspaper staffs, I am also debate coach
and drama director. And then there are the numerous
committees I serve on. Yes, I have a pretty busy schedule
but I love it!
I came to the classroom by a pretty circuitous route.
When I entered Blinn College in Brenham and later Texas
A&M University at College Station, teaching was the
absolute last thing on my mind. Majoring in journalism,
my goal was to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter.
I never have won the Pulitzer Prize, though. On the
other hand, I did live a pretty interesting life as a reporter,
editor, publisher, and even the owner of my own weekly
newspaper. In the course of the 20-years plus I was a
professional journalist, I interviewed one president, several
Texas governors and several other celebrities, from
movie stars to sports figures. And I got to travel to some
pretty interesting locales, from a World's Fair in Canada to
Washington, D.C. Being a reporter also enabled me the
opportunity to ride a hot-air balloon, sky-dive, and drive
a stock car on one of the fastest race tracks in the country.
I even made a difference a time or two as a professional
journalist. I exposed several threats to the environment on
a couple of occasions. And I tried my best to keep local
politicians honest and doing the job they were supposed to
do serving the people that elected them.
I also developed a desire to share my experiences and
knowledge as a journalist with others. I was always willing
to speak to high school and college journalism students. I
judged hundreds of UIL journalism contests. And I even
helped a local high school offer journalism and mentored
the first class starting their own newspaper.
I even started substitute teaching, although I very
seldom subbed for a journalism teacher. I taught a lot of
other subjects, including a few, like physics, where the
students knew more then I did.
As often happens, an unexpected opportunity arose
that brought me to teaching full time beginning last year.
I lived across the street from a school board member and
family friend. We often would talk about my desire to
teach. One evening, after a school board meeting, he came
to my door and told me the journalism teacher had resigned
and asked if I would be interested in applying. I said
yes and made my way to the district office the next
morning. A couple of days later I was granted an interview
by superintendent Dr. Ruth Kane because the district was
also trying to hire a new principal. Fortunately she hired
me, and as they say, "the rest is history."
We all have a need to leave the world in a better place
than we found it. I am no different. Teaching high school
students is my legacy my way of leaving the world a
I was fortunate enough when I was a student at Caldwell
High School to have some great teachers. I remember one
in particular. She was a journalism graduate teaching high
school English so her husband could finish veterinary
school at nearby Texas A&M University. This wonderful
lady saw I had a talent for writing and encouraged me to
develop that skill, even helping me get a job for the local
daily when I was 16. She was an encourager, and most
importantly, a friend. She challenged me to accomplish
things I never thought I could accomplish.
I want to be that kind of a teacher a teacher who sees
potential in a student that even the student themselves do
not see. I want to be the kind of teacher that challenges his
students to reach their highest expectations.
I also want to be the kind of teacher that cares for his
students as individuals. When I was growing up, my friends
and I had come from two-parent families and did not worry
about gangs and drugs. Life was a lot simpler then.
Many of my students come from single-parent homes
and are often parents themselves. They constantly face
tough issues like gangs, drug use, alcoholism and much
more. Now, more than ever, they need adults who care,
and often that role must be assumed by teachers. We spend
more time with these students than their own parents or
guardians. These young men and women need our love and
More importantly, I want to be the kind of teacher that
makes learning fun. Learning does not have to be a painful
experience. It's okay for learning to be fun.
Teaching and learning has changed since I was in high
school. We didn't know what a computer was, much less
have them in our classrooms. Now I teach in a classroom
with lots of computers, multi-media projectors, and more.
My classroom presentations and that of my students are
often done in PowerPoint.
Teaching is the most important profession in the world,
bar none. As teachers we shape the lives of our students
during the most formative and challenging years of their
lives. We are preparing these young people for the rest of
their lives. We need to realize that not only should we
prepare our students for college but for the workplace
because not all students choose to attend college.
I also am finding out how valuable my work experience
is when it comes to teaching. I can share my experiences
of being out in the "real world." I can also give them a
"heads-up" when it comes to the journalism profession in
particular. And I offer all of my students an insight as to
what it takes to be successful in the business world.
I hope other professionals will consider the teaching
profession as a new and wonderful career. We need more
folks from business, industry, and the media to enter the
classroom and help eliminate the teacher shortage. More
importantly, we need them to prepare our students for the
Was my first year easy?
It was challenging, sometimes stressful, and most importantly,
it was a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to
this year and more to come.
The transition from the business world to the classroom
is not easy. I have had many opportunities to learn to
be a better classroom teacher. There have been many
wonderful professional development opportunities, including
attending a couple of wonderful institutes.
And when it comes to my classroom style, I see myself
as more a facilitator rather an teacher. When I was in high
school many years ago, I learned the most from the teachers
who saw the importance of learning being studentoriented
rather than teacher-oriented.
And there is nothing more satisfying or thrilling than
to see a student discover a new concept. The excitement
that is in their eyes when they grasp new knowledge is a
This is why I do what I do. I spend most week nights at
school activities, often coaching a host of UIL events.
Thanks to an understanding wife, I am with my students,
and if they are involved in school activities, they are not
facing the threats of illegal drug use, gangs and even teen
pregnancy. That's why extracurricular activities, particular
those sponsored by our UIL, are so important.
And guess what, I might even be teaching that future
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist!
I may not have won one, but I could be teaching a