Kathryn Szymkiewicz (1st Quarter, 2007)

by Josh Barsch on August 20, 2010

1st Quarter, 2007
Liberal Arts Scholarship Winner
Kathryn Szymkiewicz

“My name is Kathryn Szymkiewicz. Currently I am a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics. In the future I plan to apply to Graduate School to obtain a Master of Arts in Education degree. Social studies and the social sciences are two of the most powerful passions in my life and I hope to inspire and motivate students in my hometown of Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania to view the past as something to be revered rather then forgotten. Economics coupled with a strong grasp on history grants anyone willing to study them a clear view of the path our nation and world are currently following. With the StraightForward Media Liberal Arts Scholarship I was bestowed with the means to make my dreams a reality and mold future generations of students and for that I am truly thankful! “

A Portion of Kathryn’s Winning Essay:

Kathryn Szymkiewicz

A wise man, or woman, once said “History repeats itself.” It stuck and now that one little phrase has been used for years to describe the natural cycle our world and the lives of those people who make it spin get caught in. Though nearly everyone has heard or have even exploited this simple yet overdone statement, few truly understand the deep message that can be discovered by those of whom are willing to just listen to the voices of the past, thus opening themselves to be able to shape the voices of the future.

People are ignorant to the impact our history has on our current actions and the actions of our prosperity due to the futile acts of teachers. The educators of present seem to lack the ability to motivate their students to reach a new level of engagement and interaction with the future leaders of the world. Though living in this mist for most of my life, I finally found the light at the end of the history tunnel in the classroom of Mr. Patrick Hassler at Highlands High School.

Mr. Hassler’s sophomore Honors World Cultures course opened my eyes to the joys of teaching and expanded my own love of history that had been muted for years by inept teaching. Being a pupil under Mr. Hassler encouraged me to declare my major in history when I enter the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Arts and Sciences in August.

History, from my earliest memories as a child, has always engrossed and fascinated me. I was the only kid I knew who watched the History Channel for fun. To my classmates I had an abnormal connection with the people of the past but I was merely following in the footsteps of two important men in my life. My father and grandfather nurtured my love of history by allowing me to share in their own personal devotion to the times of yore and legend. Both men treasured and appreciated the battle that tore our nation in two almost a century and a half earlier, the infamous Civil War, and bestowed onto me the same gratitude and reverence they gave to the men and women who gave up their lives to give all people on the earth the hope to strive for a better and brighter future. Yet, while I was at school, I never had the pleasure of having a history teacher that had the ability to motivate me to enjoy a history lesson, a task which I left for home, on my own time.


That deathly boring and fruitless cycle continued to drown me in its incompetent waters until I reached the tenth grade and was taught by Mr. Patrick Hassler. His classes opened my eyes to the fact that sitting through a history class could be worth my while and live up to the expectations set by my father and grandfather, self-declared and self-made historians, that history should be a catalyst to encourage and hearten the minds of students that they have the power to change the problems and evils of the world.

Through his lessons and lectures, Mr. Hassler heightened my dedication to the people of former times. That sharpened determination allows me in this time of new beginnings and new aspirations to reach a level in which I am willing and able to let history play a huge role in life: by devoting four complete years of my life to learning all I can about this world’s complex history, cultures, and conflicts in order to continue to spread the lessons of the past to the children of the future. Not only did Mr. Hassler revive and inspire the flame that my father and grandfather had kindled but he also introduced to me the happiness that can be obtained through the art of teaching.

To sum up Mr. Hassler’s style of education I would simply say he made learning about dead guys in funny clothes enjoyable and even exciting. He got the entire class, all nine of us in his mob of a sixth period class, involved, competitive, and on task, a sign of a remarkable and talented teacher. Textbooks, notes, and lectures never stole center stage while Mr. Hassler was in control of a class. Instead, he utilized the elementary art of group projects to bring the class together in the educational process.

I can remember one particularly intriguing project in which I stayed up to at least one o’clock in the morning in order to get all the details right. My lack of sleep was not because of too much work or overly complicated directions. During those wee hours of the morning I was running on adrenaline, an adrenaline brought on by working on something I could see the purpose behind.

This revolutionary project was a newspaper, built of articles written by the group members, from a World War One era city. The class was split into two competing sects of reporters, both vying for the prestigious recognition bestowed on the winning newspaper by a group of unbiased teachers. A knowledge and understanding of yellow journalism, the effects of the war at home, group skills, and responsibility, not just a grade for our report card, were the true end results of this innovative assignment.

When the class was not working on a project, Mr. Hassler was the instigator of many heated and out of the ordinary class discussions, discussions about the past with a uniquely personal twist. Mr. Hassler always made sure he furnished us with the descriptions essential to better understand the humanistic side to the strife and pleasures we were leaning about. The family situations, the emotional environment, and the forced choices behind many unbelievable actions past people had to live with were all included in Mr. Hassler’s quest to make us, as teenagers, realize what we would have had to endure if we were placed in that funny and uncomfortable clothing of the past.

Through all of the lengths Mr. Hassler took to keep his students with him in his journey through history, he made me realize that as educators, teachers have the responsibility to engross, engage, and stimulate students in all subjects, even those where the majority of students have little or no interest. By seeing him work his skills in acting just how a teacher should, I also saw that I could fill the void separating the younger generations of students and history.

The youth of the present do not feel the need to venerate or even realize the important messages the voices of the past are shouting at today’s leader and citizens. To them, history is in the past and is a pain to learn because no one took the time to explain that history class does not just have to be remembering dates and battles. A personal connection, similar to the one I constantly strive to strengthen for myself, could be made with the citizens of the past, triggered by a Lithuanian great-grandmother, a family vacation to Paris, or by simply sitting in a classroom run by an educator who truly cares about the fragility of the past, and can be used to rope in the wayward students who could care less about the dead guy with funny clothes. We need more teaches who are willing to put down the textbook, talk to their students, and engage them in a way that makes history and it’s citizens interesting to the increasing growing members of the indifferent populace.

My craving and yearning to be a part of the joy of enriching and adding knowledge to the lives of the future leaders of our nation and world found it’s source in the classroom of Mr. Patrick Hassler at Highlands High School. All of the lessons I took away from B206 led me to one career choice with unlimited opportunities: teaching.

My goal in life is to be able to inspire at least one person in the way Mr. Hassler, my father, and my grandfather inspired me to go against the grain the rest of my fellow students were following and embrace history, with all of her lessons and voices, with open arms. Whether deepening the minds of a classroom full of youths or leading a group of all ages through a museum, I will always remember the way Mr. Hassler augmented my inherited love of history and inspired me to reverberate and share that love with the masses. A memory I will cherish each day of my college journey, each day of my career, wherever and whatever it is, each time I watch the History Channel, and each time I think of my grandfather and his library of knowledge stored in his room and mind. All of the newfound knowledge awarded to me by my father, grandfather, and Mr. Patrick Hassler led me to a quote made by H.G. Wells that encapsulates everything I have learned and hope to fight against. “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” With a little help from you, I will battle against ignorance and apathy and perhaps save the world from the catastrophe Mr. Wells warned the world of.

Copyright 2007, StraightForwardMedia.com. All rights reserved.

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