Kansas City, April 30, 2020: Jared Kastelein knows that the equation for success when teaching science to ninth graders hinges on a rare but critical function: relationships.
Mr. Kastelein has been a member of the Central High School faculty for four years, part of a team that has sparked a process of steady improvement that has revived the school and its entire community. On Wednesday, April 29, City Year Kansas City announced that he was being named its “Idealist of the Year” for 2020 as a result of his constant commitment to serving students.
City Year is an education-focused nonprofit that places teams of federal AmeriCorps members between the ages of 18 to 25 in schools to serve as full-time mentors/tutors for students in need of additional support. Because Kansas City Public Schools sponsors City Year KC to be on campuses, the organization annually honors a KCPS employee who impacts the lives of others through service and volunteerism.
The recognition as City Year KC’s “Idealist of the Year” came as a surprise and honor for Kastelein.
“I love working with the City Year team at Central High School, so getting this award really does mean a lot to me,” he said. “When I think about how they define ‘idealist,’ it’s humbling.”
Kastelein was honored as part of City Year KC’s “Day of Idealism,” which included recognitions of the organization’s AmeriCorps members serving in public schools across KCPS.
“By highlighting our students, our City Year AmeriCorps members and the Idealists of the Year, our hope is that this day will inject much-needed joy, positivity, and yes, idealism, across our community,” City Year KC Development Manager Matt Seithel said.
Kastelein has been leading physics classes for ninth graders since he came to CHS right of college. He developed a reputation as a caring educator who focused as much on meeting the needs of individual students as he did on teaching hard facts and figures, according to Principal Anthony Madry.
“I’m not surprised that Jared is getting this recognition from City Year,” Mr. Madry said. “He has been an integral part of our team. That includes taking charge of our science fair and helping lead our faculty’s transition to distance learning. He’s a quick learner and the ultimate teammate.”
Being a great public educator requires a lot more than teaching content, Kastelein said. Students need to know that their teachers care about them if they are going to be engaged in classwork.
“It’s not just about instruction. It’s about being involved in the lives of our kids,” he said. “I take time to greet each of them personally every day and check-in with how they are doing.”
Kastelein and Mr. Madry started their positions at the same time at CHS. Madry set the standard that the school would focus on making sure that students were in class and learning in order to make academic progress every day, according to Kastelein. But Madry also demonstrated that personal relationships were the key to helping students focus on learning by overcoming the challenges that crop outside the classroom.
“The key way we do that is by building relationships. If there’s an issue and I don’t have that relationship, I can’t help,” Kastelein said. “People in this school give it their all. That’s why Central is on the rise.”
Visit www.kcpublicschools.org/Central to learn more about Central High School.