Education has come full circle for Russell Place. Once a Norwalk student, he is now a world history and social studies teacher at Norwalk Middle School. His own teachers had such a positive impact on him that he decided to become a teacher as well.
However, deciding to become a teacher was not as clear-cut as it sounds.
“I originally went to Simpson College and started out as an education major,” Place says. “After one semester, I decided that education wasn’t for me and switched my major to sports administration.” Interestingly, one of his internships for that program took him to Norwalk High School.
After graduating from Simpson with a degree in sports administration, Place went to Grand View University for graduate studies and took a graduate assistant position as the residence life hall director.
“I was in contact with students regarding coursework and other aspects of college life and realized that I would like to do that at the secondary level of education,” he says.
While at Grand View he decided to pursue an additional undergraduate degree instead, this time in secondary education with a social science endorsement.
Since then, he has been in the classroom teaching students about history and helping them learn to analyze information.
“What I love best about what I do is seeing the students succeed,” says Place.
When thinking about what he wants to implement in the classroom this year, Place says he wants to bring a sense of fun to the atmosphere. Since not every student enjoys history the same way, creating an entertaining learning environment that encourages students to think for themselves is important.
As part of this effort, Place is implementing a new seventh grade curriculum alongside another history teacher. The new curriculum will encourage students to use open-minded analysis of facts they learn in class.
“It’s a balance of what you teach and what captures their attention,” Place says. The new approach will allow students to delve into topics that are important to them and think about what impact historical events have on today’s society.