Students in the Comal Independent School District celebrated their teacher this week with a drum roll and cheerleaders.
The Canyon Lake High School Hawk performed along with the dance team and cheerleaders as we presented their AP History teacher, Charles Van Houten, with the KENS 5 SACU Excel Award.
Songs are one way Van Houten has his AP European and U.S. history students learn. He also has the students teach each other.
"You learn best by teaching. If you can explain it to someone else, that's true knowledge," Van Houten said.
"He is just so enthusiastic about everything he does," 10th-grader Madelyn Johnson said.
Van Houten teaches all grades at Canyon Lake High School. He was actually a salesman until he decided to switch careers.
"It was a pay cut, but I've got to tell you, money's not everything. I was a struggling student myself, so it makes me more understanding when a kid says, ‘I don't have this at home, could you stay and help me with this?’" Van Houten explained.
Now, his rewards are his students’ success. He teaches AP U.S. and European History, and German. He says he doesn't make it easy, he makes it fun.
"He strives to be as entertaining as possible and make everyone love him. And he does a great job at it,” 10th-grader Charles Kidd said. “He works super hard out of the class and he hosts things and keeps it as exciting and interesting as possible.”
Van Houten founded the chess club and Model U.N. at the school and is now the sponsor. His classroom is always full.
"I've got kids who will come in the morning and you'll see I've got kids who will hang out at lunch just come and hang out and we play chess,” Van Houten noted. “Getting the kids to want to come to the classroom, that's the goal.”
While Van Houten could list his back to back U.I.L. State Championships in History or the state award for STAAR and A.P. performances as accomplishments, he says his greatest accomplishments are his relationships with his students and their families.
"He loves what he does and it really makes you want to learn more," said Katelyn Pate, a 10th-grader.
"When they don't have to be here, the kids want to be here,” Van Houten said. “That's my biggest accomplishment.”