After more than a decade of teaching at Country Day, history teacher and college counselor Chris Kuipers is ready to move on to the next phase of his life in the Pacific Northwest.
Alicia Perla will be taking over as the college counselor. Perla interned as a college counselor in the past with college counselor Jane Bauman. She has also volunteered as one for Breakthrough Sacramento since 2019.
The main reasons for Kuipers’ move to Seattle are to be closer to family and because he and his wife found great professional opportunities there.
Kuipers will be the Associate Director of College Counseling at the Overlake School in Seattle.
During his 11 years as a teacher here, Kuipers has taught seventh-grade history, eighth-grade U.S. history, and AP U.S. history in the high school.
“My favorite class to teach was eighth grade U.S. history,” Kuipers said. “I’ve always been the most passionate about U.S. history. In eighth grade, students are mature and smart enough to have good, thoughtful, substantive discussions, but because they’re still in middle school, there’s still a certain playfulness.”
Through all of the classes Kuipers has taught, a common factor is the National History Day project.
When Kuipers first joined, the project was limited to the eighth grade. Now, as Kuipers departs, the project is done from seventh through tenth grade.
“The eighth grade history class is where the NHD project started and I got to watch the project develop from there, so that class was definitely the center of my experience at Country Day,” he said.
Kuipers hopes that the NHD project will continue to grow. The program showcases some of the students’ best work to a broader community, which is important to their education, Kuipers said.
‘I have a lot of pride in the program and I feel confident that it will stay strong and flourish for the years to come.”
The success of the NHD program is one of Kuipers’ biggest accomplishments through his years as a teacher, said Head of High School Brooke Wells.
One of Kuipers’ favorite experiences as a teacher was the seventh grade Renaissance Fair.
Junior Craig Bolman has had Kuipers as a teacher since seventh grade and was part of the last Renaissance Fair.
“I remember him dressing up as a King for the Renaissance Fair and recording a lip-synch video to a Queen song,” Bolman said.
While Kuipers is proud of the development of classes and the NHD program as part of that on the professional side of things, he’s also appreciative of the connections he’s made with students.
“I can open this filing cabinet right now and pull out a big file with all the different thank you notes and cards I’ve received from students over the years,” Kuipers said. “Being able to connect to individual lives and help students think differently about themselves or the world is what I’m most proud about.”
The school Kuipers’ will be working at in Seattle is a fifth-12th grade school.
“I’ll miss being at a school that’s pre-k through 12,” Kuipers said. “Aside from my personal interest of not being at the same school as my kids for a couple of years, there’s something special about seeing kindergarteners and high school students coming together. The cohesiveness of PK-12 creates a really special place.”
Kuipers added that he’ll also miss his colleagues, many of whom have been at Country Day throughout his 11 years, watching the school grow and change.
“When you go through that together, you build strong bonds,” he said.
In short, Kuipers will miss the community.
“He’s a wonderful colleague. Super smart, thoughtful and honest,” Wells said. “I’ll miss working with him.”
Looking back on his experiences here, he has multiple favorite memories.
“There’re a lot of big moments that jump out: the Renaissance Fair, the trip to Washington D.C. and moseying around D.C. with the tour guide,” Kuipers said.
“There are also small moments just being in the hotel and creating connections with students whether it’s yelling at (junior) Dylan (Margolis) to be quiet in his hotel room, the long tour bus rides or having to spend the night in an airport due to the delayed flights. It’s just being part of that experience with the students that hold my best memories,” Kuipers said.
He added that the small individual conversations with students pursuing a topic or talking with colleagues about teaching and the community are all memories he’ll take with him.
Bolman is currently in Kuipers’ AP U.S. History class.
“He’s my favorite history teacher,” Bolman said. “He’s always good at driving discussion in the classroom and his in-class activities are always engaging. I’m sad to see him go.”
Kuipers has always tried to push his students to see past the “conveyor belt mentality” of accumulating knowledge just to pass the next assessment.
“Our purpose in life and our purpose in education is to make a difference and to make the best use of our time here,” Kuipers said.
Through all his time here, Kuipers said that there isn’t anything he won’t miss.
“I’ve had a really blessed time here. I think every community should always be changing and growing, so there are things we’re still working on, but I truly look forward to coming to work each day,” Kuipers said. “I’ll miss all of it, but I’m certainly excited for the next step.”
— By Arikta Trivedi
Originally published in the May 25 edition of the Octagon.