Spreading Joy Through Education
Written by Emily DePangher
Soon after graduating from Hillsdale in 2014, Rachel Basinger moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, and began her teaching career at Providence Classical School, where she spends her days teaching Humane Letters, an integrated humanities class that focuses on history, literature, philosophy, and theology.
Her path to becoming a teacher, however, was not a conventional one. Though Rachel was homeschooled and grew up with a deep respect for education, she entered Hillsdale with her heart set on law school and a desire to later enter the political world. However, as she began her studies at Hillsdale, she realized that she wanted to pursue something completely different.
“I first considered classical education because Hillsdale had so many good teachers, including Drs. Birzer, Gaetano, and Stewart, who were all very formative in my love for history. I also loved the entire Spanish department, including the late Dr. Muñiz. Through them, I realized that the best way to change society was not through changing laws or policies but through helping individuals.”
And Rachel has gone on to do just that. When looking back at her most rewarding moments during her first years of teaching, she likes to share about the time when a shy young student of hers went out of his way to thank her for some edits she had made to his paper.
“I was so surprised that the student had come up to me and thanked me for something that seemed very small to me. Since then, I have had a good rapport with this student, and I feel like I was finally able to connect with him.”
Though she found teaching to be difficult at first, Rachel has learned to recognize and enjoy the fun that comes with her job.
“A former teacher told me that third year is when it gets fun, and I have found this to be true. I was very discouraged during my first year teaching and wanted to quit, but I am so glad that I stuck with teaching. My students are the reason I want to continue teaching.”
The close community at the classical school also gives Rachel a sense of belonging in her new life as a teacher.
“Every morning, the faculty meets for devotions, so we support each other academically and spiritually. In fact, one of my coworkers and her family have become my second family here in Williamsburg.”
Between her close-knit community in Williamsburg and mentors in Hillsdale who continue to keep in touch with her and pass on new resources that she can use in her classroom, Rachel has continued to both grow as an individual and maintain her own joy for learning, which manifests itself in the lessons she teaches every day.
“A classical school,” Rachel explains, “is supposed to be rigorous, and students by nature tend to avoid hard work and deep thinking. The challenge of the classical teacher is to enchant the hearts and minds of students and teach them how to delight in learning. The best way to do this is to enjoy the material myself, so I try to spread this joy to my students.”
Be sure to check out the guest piece that Rachel wrote about the experience of teaching, entitled, “Is Teaching For Me? A Letter to Prospective (and Current) Teachers.”
Emily DePangher, class of ’16, plans to pursue a career in criminal justice in Washington, D.C. post graduation. As a George Washington Fellow and politics major, Emily has had the opportunity to participate in a myriad of political events while at the college. Furthermore, her participation in mock trial, volunteer hours at the local nursing home, and two summers spent living and working in DC have provided a host of real world experience that she highly values.