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Teacher of the month

English teacher wants students to see beyond the words

Staff writer

Hillsboro High School English teacher Darrel Knoll wants students to leave his classroom with the skills to express themselves articulately in speech and writing, but he also wants them to be able to think critically.

“One thing I would like students to know is how to think about things beyond the concrete words on the page,” he said.

While reviewing part of one of William Shakespeare’s plays, “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” in senior-level English class on Friday, he reminded students about an earlier lesson on equivocation, where a statement can have multiple meanings, often with intent to deceive. Macbeth never considered alternate meanings of prophecies by three witches in the play, Knoll said, and that contributed to his eventual demise.

After reviewing two scenes and having students read one aloud in class, Knoll showed them a video of the same scenes from a theatrical production. After class, student Becky Faber said watching scenes like that makes the material clearer than just reading it would.

She said she gets an appreciation and understanding of subjects that Knoll teaches in class, beyond simple factual knowledge.

Knoll took an interest in teaching in part because there are a lot of teachers on both sides of his family tree. He also had a knack for helping classmates in school, he said. When he graduated from Bethel College in 1987, he planned to teach social studies.

“I really never thought I would be an English teacher,” he said.

But in 1988 he accepted a job teaching English at Hillsboro Middle School. He taught at the middle school level for 16 years before switching to HHS.

Knoll usually makes studies of literature interactive, HHS Principal Max Heinrichs said. While students were settling into class before reviewing “Macbeth,” Knoll played traditional Scottish music to set the tone for the day.

Knoll said he attempts to vary his approach to teaching literature by having students work in small groups, read material aloud, or try other things to break up the routine. He said he does that to prevent students from feeling they have been in class for a long time.

Heinrichs said HHS students graduate with knowledge of how to write research papers for college, and that Knoll’s classes are a major contributor to that knowledge. He said a lot of former students thank Knoll for developing those skills.

Knoll and his wife, Lenna, have two sons: eighth-grader Grant and fourth-grader Joseph.

Last modified Feb. 17, 2011

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