BY RACHAEL GRAY
Adam Cassellius moved to Garden City from Wisconsin.
The plan was to get experience teaching and move on.
That was seven years ago.
Cassellius, a social studies teacher at Garden City High School, said what keeps him coming back each year is working with the students.
"I have great kids, great classes, great subjects, and teachers and principals. It's been a really good seven years," he said.
Cassellius is one of six finalists for the Crystal Apple Award, an award given annually to Finney County's top educators. The C.A.R.E. Task Force of the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce announced the 2012 finalists last month. C.A.R.E. stands for Community Awareness and Recognition in Education.
The top three finalists will be named as the 2012 Crystal Apple Teachers of Finney County at a banquet Thursday at the Clarion Inn, 1911 E. Kansas Ave. The winners will receive an engraved crystal apple, $1,000 cash award and other prizes. The other three finalists will be presented with a cash award of $250. Other finalists are Rod Willis, Buffalo Jones Elementary School; Emily Hamlin, Holcomb High School; Andrea Baker, Garfield Early Childhood Center; Diane Smith, Buffalo Jones; and Debbie Adler, Jennie Barker Elementary School.
Cassellius teaches sophomore world history, junior U.S. History and a sophomore AP European history class.
He also is involved in sports and activities across the district.
He coached middle school cross country for the past five years and worked with the high school cross country team this year. Now, he's coaching seventh-grade girls basketball at Kenneth Henderson Middle School. In the spring he will coach track and field at KHMS.
Cassellius also formed and is a sponsor of the international cultural club at GCHS.
"Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, everyone was white and pretty much the same. Coming to Garden City, I was just blown away by the rainbow of diversity in Garden City. I started the club to highlight the different groups here," he said.
The club has a cultural awareness week in the spring and fall.
Cassellius is a third-generation educator. His grandmother, Loretta, 95, taught in a one-room schoolhouse.
When he goes home to Glenwood City, Wisc., he talks to her about education.
Cassellius was in his mother's class in both middle school and high school.
"She was my history teacher in high school. I took her classes. She was really good," he said.
Cassellius said history was a natural fit for him to teach.
"The subject matter — I think that goes back to growing up on a farm. My parents' farm has been in the family for 100 years. Growing up, every piece of junk in the garage had a story behind it. We would drive around to church or town and my dad always told me stories about where he bailed hay or picked corn. There were so many stories that it interested me to learn about history," he said.
And he likes teaching it to youth.
"It's so interesting learning about real people and real events. This stuff really happened. It's really neat to learn how people lived back then. And the lessons we can learn from the people who lived back then can help us live our amazingly sophisticated lives today," he said.
Cassellius said that during the past seven years, the major changes have been in technology and curriculum.
"We have these iPads and amazing technology. In my mind there were so many things I wanted to be able to do someday — and basically all those dreams have come true," he said.
Curriculum is changing from No Child Left Behind to Common Core Standards. He said it's a good change from NCLB, which was basically an assessment of multiple choice. Students will have to think and write more under Common Core, he said.
"Common Core is focused more on skills. They're going to have to write and prove and make an argument. They'll be able to really dive into some good history," he said.
Cassellius said he enjoys his job, and working with students is what makes him keep coming back each day.
"I keep coming back because I really enjoy working with my students. Their energy just brightens my day and makes my job — the roller coaster of education — it all pays off. When I can come in and have a great group of kids and a great lesson and a great day, it makes it all worth it," he said.
Cassellius is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He met his girlfriend, Briana Hilliker, an interventionist at Georgia Matthews Elementary School, at new teacher orientation. She also is from Wisconsin.