Why I teach: Part I

Young teachers bring energy to OHS

Editor’s note: This is a two part series focusing on why teachers chose their profession.

Owatonna Senior High is home to an array of teachers, each having a different perspective with a unique experience. Teachers must go through education that is specific to their areas of teaching. Each state has their own qualifications and standards, but the most common standard for secondary education is having a Bachelor’s degree and obtaining a teaching license. With these qualifications, should the retention rate of 30 percent of new teachers leaving after three years be surprising? A better question is why do they stay? They bring their skills into the classroom, hoping to find a student who takes in information like the NSA. But why? What driving force was there to teach? Who pushed them into forging a career educating tomorrow’s leaders? 

For Aleksandr Prafke, social studies teacher here at OHS, it was as simple as a meeting. The very first time he met with his college advisor, he was asked what he wanted to do with a history degree. Knowing that he wanted to teach, he found himself in the Social Studies Education program. It was there, surrounded by like-minded, future educators that he found his motivation.

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“I remember really deciding to want to be a teacher when I met people from my program and realized they thought similarly to me about the world, and were never satisfied with one answer. And at that point my main drive was sharing those ideas with others.”

— Mr. Prafke

Now that he has almost a year of teaching under his belt, has his motivation changed? “It is a little personal, but when I started I was very concerned with doing a good job and not making a fool of myself, and now that screwing up and looking foolish are out of the way, my motivations and reasons come from different places. I really genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of students, and show them something they might not have seen before, and use that knowledge to make a positive change/impact in their lives,” said Mr. Prafke. A big surprise was finding like-minded students and “realizing that I’m not as alone in my thoughts as I once felt.” There are a myriad of reasons to be a teacher; for some, it runs in the family.

Another new hire social studies teacher has similar reasons for teaching. Tyler Hannigan knew from a young age that he should teach. His mother runs a daycare, while his father teaches in the Twin Cities. With his parents involved so heavily in the education system, it only makes sense that he felt the calling. Mr. Hannigan’s passion for education did not reveal itself until he sat in an Intro to Mass Media course at Winona State. It was there he decided to switch his major from Marketing and Mass Media to Education.

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“Helping students achieve to the highest of their abilities has always been my goal and the reason that I teach.”

— Mr. Hannigan


This ties in with his daily motivation, every student improving and accomplishing more than they think possible. “The students and staff at OHS are my favorite part about school. Working in a place with so many great people makes my job fun and exciting,” said Mr. Hannigan.

Finding ones’ calling is as unique as the individual. The same standards apply to teachers, and their reasons for teaching can evolve, but nearly always revolve around the students.