Staying unbiased in the classroom can sometimes be “hard to navigate” says Colleen Kollasch, a social studies teacher at DeForest Area High School. She teaches an array of classes including AP United States History, AP Government and Politics, and United States Government. She is also the Social Studies Department Co-Chair, an Education Effectiveness Mentor, and a NHS Advisor.
Based on data from the past three presidential elections, all of the areas DeForest AreaSchool District has students from has ended up with a democratic majority. Despite that, Kollasch is still determined to provide her students with opinions on various sides of the spectrum. “[D]uring [an] election year … I have a tally sheet on my podium. And I make sure I equally say … Democrat, Republican, and the different candidates’ names. I do a tally … not always giving examples from one point of view, more than the other.”
When Kollasch is teaching she tries to “focus on student learning and helping students develop their own thought process. I … had the philosophy that I’m not here to tell you how or what to think. But I’m here to help you facilitate your learning process.” Still, she also feels “an obligation to correct information that doesn’t align with the Constitution.” There is a lot of pressure that is put on social studies teachers; they are expected to remain completely unbiased. You have to remember that they are “human at the end of the day as well so it’s hard not to let our own beliefs creep into it,” but Kollasch explains “we work really hard as a department to keep student learning at the center of all of that we do.”
Kollasch wants “student learning to be the center of the focus,” which is why she exposes herself to a variety of different news and media sources. “I don’t stick to just one [news] site myself because I want to have the full picture as much as I can so I can understand where all my students are coming from.”
Paige Rogalla, a Senior at DeForest Area High School explains that it is important for teachers to teach in an unbiased way because “it allows the kids to be able to hear both sides of the issue and make a choice for themselves … they’re able to make informed decisions based on unbiased information.” Kollasch “taught the textbook nicely” but also “made sure to do her own research and add to the topic to make us more informed,” says Alexys Scheuerell, a Senior at DeForest Area High School.
As one of Kollasch’s students myself, I feel as though she practices what she preaches and as students stand up for what they believe in, in her classes she makes you think and form opinions for yourself. When I was in one of her United States Government classes last year I had a class that had very similar beliefs, and I vividly remember Kollasch playing the devil’s advocate to provoke debate between us, and do it in a way that not only makes us want to stand up for what we believe in, but understand where others are coming from. Some teachers leave an impact on students that will always stay with them, Kollasch is one of those teachers, at least for me.
Paige says that Kollasch has impacted her in many ways and that “I’m really happy that I had the chance to be her student. She makes her class fun in an interesting way, while also teaching us necessary information … I learned a lot in her class.”
At the end of the day Kollasch feels that “I have done one of the best jobs I possibly can with a student if I know they go vote. I don’t care how they vote. It’s that they are civically engaged. That’s my measure of if we’re doing our job correctly, that they are engaged in this system.”
Many students, including myself, will be staying civically engaged, so I guess it’s fair to say Kollasch did a pretty good job.