STILLMAN VALLEY (WREX) — The 1988 U.S. presidential election.
The Ronald Reagan era had come to an end and George H.W. Bush made his way into the White House.
That’s where Michael Kusek’s passion for history began.
“I was about 8 years old. I just fell in love with history and politics,” Kusek said.
His loved carried through high school and AP exams to college and ultimately to the classroom.
Kusek has taught history for 13 years, 10 of which have been at Stillman Valley High School.
The Cardinal community is one Kusek has been proud to call home over the last decade.
“There’s a lot of collaboration and community oriented activities.”
“I’m just kind of overwhelmed overall about the experience here and just very thankful that some of the hard work is positively viewed.”
Kusek teaches AP history courses at Stillman Valley.
A lot of his students are freshmen.
New high school students combined with a history class to start their school day can make it difficult to keep their attention.
However, Kusek uses his excitement for history to push his students to look beyond just the words in their textbooks.
“There is no exact black and white understanding of history. There is multiple interpretations that are okay and that are valid as long as they are based on historical evidence.”
There are phrases like ‘leave the past in the past” or “leave the past behind.”
Kusek does quite the opposite, he compares history to more current events to make it easier for his kids to understand.
“He’ll take everything in history and apply it to a modern philosophy. He just relates it differently than most history teachers,” Stillman Valley freshman Hope Bennett said.
“It’s not ugh I have to go to history class again. It’s I GET to go to history class because it’s Mr. Kusek.”
It’s a different approach to history, enhanced by the energy Kusek puts in.
His love for history is expressed through his teaching, which the students feed off of as well.
“I came into history not really liking or wanting to do history and he makes the class really fun and I’ve never lost interest in his class,” Stillman Valley freshman Aiden Livingston said.
Kusek’s methods are stimulating for his students, which leads to more questions being asked.
Not matter the time of day, Kusek is ready to help them find an answer.
“Even if we come in after school or before school. He’s always open to whatever questions we have,” Stillman Valley freshman McKenna Alcock said.
Being a history teacher, Kusek has pulled from figures of the past to refine his message to students.
A quote he is fond of using is one from Ralph Waldo Emerson (or Bill Walsh for sports fans).
“‘Treat a man for what he is, there he will remain. Treat a man for what he could be and he’ll become what he should be,'”
“Trying to put the ownership on them and treating them as adults as opposed to treating them as lesser.”