Wonderful teachers and a progressive public education system are two of the things David Schuler, Ph.D. remembers about the Clintonville School District.
“We were always being pushed, always being challenged,” Schuler said. “When I would talk to friends that went to different schools it seemed like we were getting a lot more than they were getting.”
Schuler returned to his alma mater to receive the 2014 Alumnus Honoris award prior to Clintonville High School graduation, Friday, June 13. Upon his return he shared his thoughts about his time at Clintonville High School and his thoughts about America’s public education system.
He said the Clintonville School District prepared him for academic life after high school.
“They really did a nice job of building from freshman to sophomore year, and then junior and senior year you were almost in college level classes with the type of learning that was expected of you. So it wasn’t that big of a leap for me to go from here to Carroll [College].
Shuler began his teaching career in Waukesha, teaching government and psychology.
Since that time Schuler has advanced his career in the public education system. In 2005, he became the superintendent of High School District 214, the second-largest high school system in the state of Illinois.
He said during his career in public education he did reach out to some of his former teachers. He said it is important to thank teachers.
“As a teacher there’s nothing better than having a former student reach out to you and thank you,” Schuler said. “I’ve tried to do that.”
During his speech to the Clintonville High School Class of 2014 he gave examples of lessons he learned from his high school teachers.
“Hopefully it will spur the graduates to think about who has really had a powerful impact on their four years in high school,” Schuler said.
He added that it is important to set lofty goals and work hard to achieve them. He also said it is important to smile, enjoy life and the journey, and never stop learning. If you stop learning, life gets boring, he said.
“For these graduates the world is going to reinvent itself several times over during their lives,” Schuler said. “If they stop learning they are going to get passed by, so they need to stay on the cutting edge in order to provide for their family and to make a living. Think about your world and how things have changed in the last five years.”
When it comes to public education, Schuler said it gets an “unfair negative rap.”
“I think the vast majority of public schools in this country are doing exceptionally well,” Schuler said. “I think when you have both parties being very critical of education it doesn’t benefit anyone.”
There is a direct correlation between poverty and education, Schuler said.
“What we need to do as a country is focus on the students of poverty and that will in turn help our educational system,” he said.
He cited Clintonville as an example of a community supporting its public schools.
“We need to say that the majority of the public schools in this country are doing great by our kids, because they are,” Schuler said. “If you look at the true student achievement levels, they have never been higher.”
Being able to adapt to technology is also important for students.
“We’ve got to teach those students to be flexible, adaptable so that they are able to be successful with whatever comes out because we can’t imagine it,” Schuler said. He used iPads as an example. They have been available for only four years but have already transformed the world.
His mother was a teacher in the Clintonville School District, and Schuler said that had an impact on him pursuing a career in public education. He said both his parents inspired him to give back and contribute to society.
“Watching my mom and watching how much satisfaction she got out of her job, there just weren’t many options for me. I wanted to be that happy and contribute and change people’s lives like she’s doing.”
In addition to his superintendent position, he is also the president-elect of the American Association of School Administrators, a national organization representing school superintendents from across the United States and Canada.
On receiving the 2014 Alumnus Honoris award, Schuler said he was humbled.
“I don’t view my accomplishments as being noteworthy,” Schuler said. “I’m very honored and humbled to represent the groups that I represent. But to have people say that you are really making some positive contributions and they’re proud of you is really cool.”