One year ago, Danielle Garceau ’16 attended her third and final Classical School Job Fair at Hillsdale College. Or so she thought.
After accepting a teaching job at Rocky Mountain Classical Academy just two days after last year’s job fair, Garceau started teaching middle school mathematics in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Last week, she returned to campus for her fourth job fair. This time, however, the roles were reversed for Garceau and the 16 other alumni who returned to work Hillsdale’s ninth Classical School Job Fair on Feb. 23 and 24. A total of 46 schools were represented, and 133 students interested in classical school teaching attended.
Earlier this month, Garceau approached Christianna Fogler — her school’s headmaster — and asked if she could attend the job fair.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be here,” Garceau said. “I told her that I would love to go back because I know so many people who want to go into teaching, and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, why didn’t I think of this first? You’re going.’ But it’s so weird. I feel like I’m here as a student.”
Since her junior year of high school, Garceau has known she wanted to teach. When she arrived at Hillsdale as a freshman, however, she didn’t know the college had eliminated its education major.
“I almost transferred,” Garceau said. “But I talked to people and they said, ‘No, you want to be a teacher here.’ The people who are here who will help you with teaching all believe in Hillsdale and the classical education.”
Garrett Holt ’14 — who returned for his second Classical Job Fair last week — was a history major, and although he said it’s often assumed history majors will teach, Holt’s “epiphany moment” happened three years ago, as a senior attending the classical school job fair.
“I remember coming to the job fair and talking with all of these principals or teachers about education and history and learning and literature and all of these things that I love to talk about,” Holt said. “I realized this is what I could spend the rest of my life doing.”
Holt accepted a fifth-grade teaching job at the Atlanta Classical Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, two weeks after the job fair. Holt’s friend Aaron Schepps signed on in Atlanta just as Terrence Moore, former professor of history and current advisor of the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale, signed on to serve as principal.
“I was deciding between a couple schools further north… Aaron told [Dr. Moore] I hadn’t signed anywhere yet, and so I received an email from him asking if I’d be interested in coming to Atlanta,” Holt said. Three years later, Holt returned to work his second Classical School Job Fair as an alumnus.
Garceau and Holt said each of their charter schools makes a serious effort to mold well-rounded students. In addition to mandatory core classes in subjects like Latin, logic, and rhetoric, Garceau said she spends 20 minutes every Monday teaching her homeroom class about character.
“We’ve done a lot on bullying, a lot on stereotypes, empathy, compassion towards others, and different types of mindsets to help yourself grow,” Garceau said. “We say, ‘We want to make you smart and we want you to know all these things, but we also want you to be a good person.’”
Holt said his fifth graders learn a lot about character through the literature they read. When his class read “Don Quixote,” Holt said his students disliked Don Quixote in the beginning of the book, but were “visibly sad” when he was ridiculed later on.
“I asked, ‘Why are you guys sad?’ And a little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Well, Mr. Holt, I think it’s because we’ve spent so much time with him and he’s become our friend by this point. We know him and we see his thoughts and we understand him,’” Holt said. “We want to show them that you need to be able to understand everyone with that same comprehension. You should take what you’re learning in literature and apply it to real life.”
Holt said many of his 9- to 11-year-old students are already concerned about getting into a good college, so it’s important to show them the real meaning of learning.
“It is getting them to realize there’s something inherently good about learning. It’s not just because you can get into a good college,” Holt said. “Part of it is saying that we are here not only to know facts, but to understand. They’re so used to the idea of the test. We want them to learn about human nature — about the good things.”
Senior Hannah Fleming, who attended her fourth job fair this year, said she’s been drawn to teaching since she was a little girl admiring her elementary school teachers. Fleming said she has narrowed down her prospects for a job, and that she would like to teach at a Lutheran classical school.
“I love the fact that you’re educating a whole person,” Fleming said. “You’re not just teaching them to be good at math or how to read … With the Christian school side, I like that you’re educating that you’re a sinner and Jesus died for you. I like that you can bring in the faith aspect, as well, because just virtue alone isn’t going to get you very far.”
Fleming said she wants to teach elementary school, so she paired her education minor with an English major. While Holt graduated with a history degree, Garceau majored in mathematics (she said was the “weird person” in high school whose favorite class was AP Calculus) and volunteered at Mary Randall Preschool every week. Although she originally wanted to teach kindergarten, Garceau said she is able to teach seventh and eighth grade math without a teaching license. Garceau said she has loved teaching middle school, to her own surprise.
“I was expecting terrors, to be honest, but they’re great,” Garceau said of her pre-teen students. “They’re sassy, but they can take the sass back.”
Holt said he is sure he wants to stay in the education field, and he has loved teaching fifth grade.
“I love how much you can influence the kids at lower primary or secondary school level,” Holt said. “I want to stay in education to some degree, but I don’t know what that looks like. I love teaching, but I would love to be a dean of students, or a vice principal.”