Mr. Robert Kettlewell
Joined SRDS Community: 2018
Degrees: B.A., History, Univ. of Richmond; M.A., Teachers College, Columbia Univ.
Upper School History
1. What did you do your undergrad/grad research on, and why?
Much of my undergraduate research focused on Marxist-Leninist movements of the 20th century, and the role the Soviet Union, and its organizations such as the Comintern played, in encouraging a worldwide communist revolution. One project I particularly enjoyed was an exploration of how the leaders of the French Communist Party responded to the Comintern’s 1935 instructions to ally with Leon Blum’s Socialist Party, a radical departure from their party line. It was exhilarating to apply my French Language skills across the curriculum to better understand my study of history. Examining primary sources in French in order to address my historical research question was a memorable and authentic learning experience. More recently, I applied Leadership theory in my graduate practicum to help lead an independent school in a self-study to develop their guiding STEAM principles for their K-12 curriculum. It was particularly challenging to try to implement best pedagogical practices while navigating the school culture. It was a valuable leadership experience, and it reinforced to me the importance of developing interpersonal relationships within any organization.
2. Why did you want to be a teacher? Who inspired you?
Since my sophomore year of high school, I worked baseball camps in the summer as a camp counselor. I enjoyed watching the individual growth of campers week-to-week and summer-to-summer. It was a joy watching camper’s eyes light up upon getting their first hit or first catch. I valued the interpersonal relationships that came with coaching, so when I graduated from college, I figured I would give teaching a try. My interest in studying history was instilled in me by my outstanding teachers both in high school and college, most notably Kirk Upton, David Brandenberger, and John Treadway, all of whom I owe a great debt.
3. Why study history? What is your area of expertise? What advice do you have for aspiring historians/teachers?
I believe the study of history is immensely important. Even if a student is not intrinsically drawn to the subject, that student can still learn valuable transferable skills, especially critical reading and argumentative writing skills. No matter where a student’s interests take them, I am confident that the skills they take away from my course will aid them in all of their pursuits. One thing I often find that students and historians alike can lose sight of when studying history is that people are the driving force behind the historical events we study. I think we are all drawn to the power of storytelling, and when historians get away from the stories of individuals, they lose the interest of the reader or student. I have often found that the best histories I have read are those written by biographers or journalists, not history PhDs. As such, I often keep the power of the narrative in mind when designing my courses and lessons.
4. What has been a favorite memory of yours during your time at SRDS?
The STEAM Expo last May has been one of the more memorable experiences I have had at SRDS so far. It was very cool to see students of all ages take pride in their work, learn from one another, and exhibit their work to the greater community. The event gave students true ownership over their product, and I, along with many of my colleagues, was blown away by some of the amazing things the kids produced. I was particularly impressed by the STEAM Expo Mobile App the Computer Science class created. The STEAM expo highlighted both the impressive academics and the sense of community SRDS fosters daily.
5. How does our curriculum and teaching at SRDS prepare students to succeed in college and beyond?
Aside from the broad array of courses and the master teaching offered here at SRDS, I think the most valuable lessons students can receive during their time here, are the communication skills that are built daily in our small classes and close-knit community. The size of our school enables students to know all of their teachers and many of their peers on a personal level, and from these personal relationships, students can learn to communicate effectively within any organization they seek to be a part of, be it a college campus or firm.