All-GTNS: Mitch Garrels
KEOSAUQUA — Mitch Garrels would give his education at Van Buren High School a B+.
"The Van Buren educational system is strong around the [core classes, such as math, science and English] and as it drifts toward specific careers, it begins to lack," explained Garrels.
Garrels would like to see the school offer classes that can relate more closely to an individual's career choice.
One strength Garrels sees in today's educational system is that technology has made it extremely easy to access vast amounts of information — much more than textbooks could ever contain.
"A disadvantage of having such a powerful tool at our fingertips is that if something gets challenging or we can't figure it out, we look it up on the Internet," he continued. "It was so ready to find the answers online that ... eventually homework is more or less a copy and paste act, with a few selected words added or removed, and the challenge then becomes not how to answer the question, but answer it in such as way that is not word for word with someone else's answer and you both get docked points for cheating. We learn less and less information and processes and more and more of how to not get caught."
English teacher Bob Galloway helped shape Garrels's high school experience in a positive way.
"He is a teacher that was overjoyed that students wanted to learn the English language," said Garrels. "I looked forward to class with him every day, even though his class was by far the hardest ... His room was more than just a classroom; it was a small, happy community. ... Taking class with Mr. Galloway was truly a privilege and I would recommend it to anyone ... His class, his mark on your life, it changes people.
"His philosophy of teachers not being teachers, but guides to those willing to learn changed my entire outlook on school," continued Garrels. "It inspired me to challenge myself and to learn to teach myself how to do something."
"Learning is all on you" is the most important lesson Garrels learned in high school.
"If you want to know it, you have to take the initiative and learn it," he said. "I have already had experience with having to limp through a subject that was tough for me. I was struggling until I realized how easy it was to learn if I took action."
The graduating senior's advice to incoming freshmen: "Challenge yourself. Take the harder classes. Strain your brain to come up with new ideas. Develop yourself. Build yourself. Be the best you can be. Take an art class or a music or shop class. Take a class where you create something and care for something. Challenge yourself to be a student that teachers will look forward to having in class and one that they will miss when you're gone."
Garrels said everyone has had a major influence on his education.
"My parents were B and C students in high school, so when I took easy classes and brought home A+ grades, they were thrilled," he said.
But Garrels surrounded himself with friends who took more advanced classes, so he took the harder classes, too.