Photograph by Gordon Schmidt
A Natural Fit

Kresge taught random lessons in high school but later fell in love with classroom teaching abroad in Japan.

Chris Kresge, GC’15, is a product of Henrico (Va.) Public Schools. After one year in front of the classroom at Echo Lake Elementary School, he’s getting noticed for doing what he loves. He was named first-year teacher of the year for the county earlier this spring.

When did you know you wanted to teach for a living?
I didn’t really consider it as a career until I moved to Japan in 2008 and was teaching English there. I started doing it without thinking it could be a long-term career and just fell in love with being in the classroom.

What’s it like being on the other side of the classroom now?
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of separation. Teaching is often said to be the last step toward mastery. There isn’t much of a difference other than having more stress. I still feel like a student, but I’m also responsible for the success of 50 other people.

How would you describe your teaching style and philosophy?
I don’t want to be a teacher who caves to external pressures if I don’t feel they are valid. I feel like my own perspective on education, as well as what I learned at UR in terms of research and best practices, doesn’t always align with district, state, and parent desires. I’d rather teach students how to think than teach to the test.

What role does technology play in your instruction?
I’m in full support of using it when it facilitates learning. I’ve found a version of the Google genius hour helpful. They give 20 percent of the workweek to engineers to work on projects that interest them and could benefit the company. I try to give my students an hour each week as long as they have a driving question. Some kids dove into learning how to program video games. Other kids built robots. One kid actually made an electric guitar.

What keeps you excited?
I’m teaching fifth grade. That gets me going. The beginning of middle school’s a challenging time. The better foundation I can give them for enjoying learning, the more they will benefit in the long term.

What keeps you up at night?
During the school year, the students —  thinking about what’s my lesson, what went wrong, and what went well.  I also have two kids of my own, and parenting is just as demanding a job.