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  • Richard Kotrla <rjkotrla2@msn.com>
    This article recently appeared in the University of Inerscholastic League newspaper: By RICHARD KOTRLA Hitchcock High School I have the best job in the world.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 28, 2002
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      This article recently appeared in the University of Inerscholastic
      League newspaper:

      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
      better place.
      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
      respect.
      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
      future.
      Was my first year easy?
      NO!!
      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
      rewarding experience.
      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
      Pulitzer-prize winner.
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