Interview with Andy Krabill
High School Social Studies Teacher
GC Graduation Year
Why or how did you choose your field? Were there specific experiences that influenced you?
While I was a sophomore at Hesston College, I took a history course with Jim Junke and read his book, The Missing Peace. I hadn’t taken much more than the required history in high school, but I enjoyed this course and the text so much that I decided to change majors.
After finishing at Hesston, I transferred to Goshen as a history major, but struggled with how I might apply this major to a specific career. I was interested in a career of service, but didn’t think I would end up doing voluntary service. I had enjoyed working with youth during summers at Menno Haven Camp and Retreat Center a few years earlier, and teaching runs in my family, so there was a lot of encouragement to consider that path. With that encouragement and a connecting the dots of past experiences, I drew a path that took my history major in the direction of secondary education.
What’s exciting about your job or this field?
The history department at Goshen exposed me to conversations about our past and present that were exciting and engaging. I wanted to take that enthusiasm into the classroom and engage students in the conversations of our world that made me passionate about history.
Today I almost exclusively teach Geography & History of the World, which I love because there is nothing in our world – past or present – that isn’t fair game. There are never two days exactly the same and there is always something new to address. Even though I generally teach the same class all day, the personalities of my students, both individually and as classes, are consistently unique. The regular opportunity to pursue my own educational interests, especially in my content area, has surprised me and is something I truly appreciate.
What has been a challenge in your career journey?
Ever-changing expectations in education (at the state, district and building level), have been major physical and psychological stressors. Even as a young teacher, reasonably able to adapt, the rate of change has been exhausting. In each of my five years, the out of class workload has increased. These changes seem to inevitably stress relationships between colleagues who are differently able or willing to adjust.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I would probably have not gotten a psychology endorsement and instead focused on economics. There is more need for economics than psychology and psychology tends to be a class many department members want to teach, but of which there are few sections. Economics would have been much more practical/marketable. Getting a geography endorsement was a great decision. I also wish I would have taken more math and science courses.
How did your liberal arts education assist you in your journey? Are there specific examples you can offer?
With a liberal arts education, I ended up taking some courses for which I would have never otherwise opted. Had history not been a required part of that, I may have never discovered my interest in it and made the switch in majors that led me to where I am now.
Did anyone offer you some memorable advice that you’d like to pass on? Or…what advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
My cooperating teacher from Elkhart Central, Dennis Nowicki, advised me to remain open to extracurricular responsibilities, like coaching, even though he knew I wasn’t very interested because I didn’t want to be another social studies coach, so to speak. He described his coaching experiences (even for sports he knew nothing about!) and encouraged me to recognize the importance of sports and other extracurricular activities as motivation for kids who don’t get that anywhere else. For him, it was as much about filling in where needed and doing his part as it was an actual interest in the sports. His advice has led me some great extracurricular experiences coaching soccer, sponsoring Ski Club and Model U.N. trips, chaperoning a U.S. history trip (well, I’d have done that anyway!), and participating in an athlete tutoring program.
In the fall of my second year, I was debating whether or not to start a master’s degree program; lots of people advised me not to, saying it would make it hard to get another job if I decided to move, it was too early, etc. My uncle Don, a retired teacher in Ohio, advised the opposite and encouraged me to get it done. I listened to him and finished in the summer after my third year teaching. It was another piece of great advice.
To close, some advice from a fellow history major: don’t feel pressure to pursue education to justify your history major with a career path. History is a great focus for a host of fields and graduate school options.