Back from a Break: Returning Teachers

After moving to Portland, Oregon, teacher Chris Mauthe realized how much he missed working with students.
After moving to Portland, Oregon, teacher Chris Mauthe realized how much he missed working with students.
Lindsey Bowers

While most adults begin their weekdays rushing out the door to their 9 to 5, coffee in hand, physics teacher Chris Kaldahl spent the past six years doing quite the opposite. Similar to many other teachers, Kaldahl had the opportunity to temporarily live someplace else prior to returning to our school this fall. These returning teachers are only just beginning to get back into the day-to-day rhythm of being a Patriot.

Following the 2010-2011 school year, Kaldahl accepted a job as a physics and chemistry teacher at a Department of Defense school an hour south of Seville, Spain. While he spent his days teaching students in military families, Kaldahl savored the time he was able to spend outside the classroom, as well.

“Selfishly, the opportunity to share the marvels of Europe with my family, none of them who had ever really lived overseas before, was really fantastic,” Kaldahl said.

After temporarily relocating his home to another country, Kaldahl is now returning to the United States with a worldly-perspective. Although he spent his time in Spain serving in a teaching position, Kaldahl recognizes how he was able to grow from his travels abroad.

“I’m mostly a physics teacher, but over there I was mostly a chemistry teacher. This is year twenty in education for me, so to have this disruption [was] a totally new field in a sense. It was still teaching, but it was teaching a different topic. That was exciting and challenging for me,” Kaldahl said.

Although not the marvelous coasts of Spain, psychology, sociology and leadership and diversity teacher Chris Mauthe was able to live by a coast just as beautiful. Two years ago, Mauthe moved to Portland, Oregon to be an instructional coach for teachers as well as a health and social studies coordinator for a school district. When accepting these positions, Mauthe was eager to not only spend time in the classroom, but to also take advantage of his surroundings outside.

“I loved the hiking and camping and being outdoors. The national parks and the state parks were all amazing out west. Having the mountains and the coast right there is big and beautiful,” Mauthe said.

Spending time away from home helped Mauthe to develop a new perspective on teaching in the classroom. Even though he was able to expand his knowledge while instructing teachers, this position made him more aware of his love for working directly with students.

“Spending two years still working in schools, but not in the classroom, made me realize how much I missed working with students. It was really great to be able to experience something different, if not only to solidify that this is the right choice,” Mauthe said.

After just one month into her first year back, general math and algebra teacher Kim Cordell has effortlessly integrated herself into our school after spending seven years away. While teaching math in numerous international schools in the countries of Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Uganda, Cordell cherished the ability to experience other cultures in the classroom.

“You would see the students bring in their own mathematical techniques from whatever country they came from, and it was amazing to see all the different ways that math can be done,” Cordell said.

Although she enjoyed the time she was able to spend out of the country, Cordell is thrilled to be back in a familiar place, especially because of Yorktown’s newly-built campus. While many recent additions have evolved over the past few years, Cordell is grateful to have the opportunity to teach alongside members of the faculty again.

“It was really nice to come back and to see a lot of familiar faces within my department and in the school in general. It was great to reconnect with all the colleagues,” Cordell said.

While some of his co-workers were living in other countries, world history and government teacher Kenneth Mandel was just two hours away in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mandel spent a year studying full-time at the University of Virginia as a part of his doctorate of education program. During this year away, Mandel was given the opportunity to collaborate with and learn alongside other doctoral students in his same position.

“Meeting other teachers from all over the country who have different perspectives on teaching was a unique experience and something you don’t always have the opportunity to do,” Mandel said.

After spending an entire year learning how to improve skills in the classroom, Mandel was able to reflect on the magnitude of what his program is doing for teachers across the country. While some look upon it as simply a degree, Mandel recognized how much he was able to accomplish in his mindset as a teacher.

“Part of the journey of doing some kind of course like a doctorate is figuring out how you can make more of a difference, how you can work towards improving your own class, your own school, but education in general as well,” Mandel said.

Regardless if their break was spent overlooking the mountains of Oregon or amidst the bustle of an African city, these teachers have brought new perspectives from all over the globe to improve the culture of our school. Their new inspiration will undoubtedly help our environment evolve into a better place to learn.

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