Teaching isn’t a career that people go into for the money or the prestige. Most enter the career with a passion for making the world a better place – one child at a time.
“Teaching is certainly not an easy job. So much can go wrong just when everything seems to be going right,” said Matt Skillen, who earned his bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts Education from Friends University and a master’s degree in teaching in 2006.
“There are good days and there are bad days, but they are all memorable. That is why we teach,” said Skillen. “We gear up every year in the middle of August and wake up every morning afterward until the first of June to experience the joys, survive the lows, and to stand as a constant in the chaotic lives of those we teach.”
Skillen, who taught for four years in the Maize school district, is now pursuing a Ph.D. in education from Kansas State University. But before he returned to academia, Skillen was honored by the Kansas Department of Education with the Horizon Award for outstanding performance.
Skillen came to Friends University in search of a small, private college education in his hometown of Wichita.
“I knew that by attending Friends I would have the opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors,” Skillen said. “And, now that I have worked in higher education, I believe Friends University employs well-respected scholars and attracts some of the best students around. Without question, Friends is one of the finest educational institutions in Kansas, and I am proud to say I graduated from Friends University.”
Skillen initially started his higher education as a theater major, but he soon found a different path.
“As I spent more time in the classroom with passionate and captivating instructors like Dr. Darcy Zabel, Dr. Marv Hinten, Dr. John Taylor and Dr. Pat Penn, I learned that I too had a passion for teaching,” he said.
And his lessons from those teachers were plentiful, Skillen says. More important than the quantity of the lessons is the staying power of his teachers’ wisdom:
“From Dr. Zabel, I learned how to actively engage a class in conversation about literature without lecturing. From Dr. Hinten, I learned that there is value in memorizing poetry and sharing it with students. From Dr. Rick Gibson, I learned the value of true assessment. From Dr. Dona Gibson, I learned the value in experiencing life in a foreign country. From Dr. Penn, I learned how important it is to reflect upon each learning opportunity. From Dr. Frye, I learned that there is only one race in this world: the human race. From Dr. Parker, I learned the value of confidence in front of an audience. From Mrs. Kay Flook, I learned how to communicate with my students. Dr. Taylor modeled the dignity and integrity one must possess to approach the front of a classroom. Dr. Bruce Quantic shared the endless possibilities of a career in secondary education with me. From Mr. Kurt Priebe, I learned that I could do anything if I just tried.”
With the lessons of his teachers close to his heart, Skillen hopes he leaves some of the same impressions on his students.
“I have worked with many students who have changed my life as a teacher,” he said. “The struggling reader, the troubled teen, the all-star athlete; they all brought something special to the classroom. I remember them all just as I hope they remember what they learned from me.”