After 50 Years of Teaching, Mr. Michael Kristan is Just Getting Started

Mr. Kristan, pictured here in the fall of 1985, has been teaching at Westwood since it opened in 1981.

The Heritage 1986

Mr. Kristan, pictured here in the fall of 1985, has been teaching at Westwood since it opened in 1981.

Sarah Wollney, Reporter

After nearly 50 years of teaching, 12th grade English and PALs teacher Michael Kristan is proud to continue his career. He began his teaching career in RRISD at Grisham Middle School in 1982. He taught a class that his son and his friends were taking at Grisham, and after a year, he moved up with them to Westwood.

“I like to teach because of literature,”  Mr. Kristan said. “[But] it’s really the kids. And I learned a long time ago that Westwood is the best place, they have the best kids.”

Throughout his years here, he credits his success to the students. He has learned to adapt to change easily and face problems with well-thought-out solutions. He has dealt with challenges ranging from the introduction of cellphones into the classroom to the changes that have come to teaching with the pandemic. He was able to create solutions that kept students wanting to learn and pay attention during class.

“You learn things like [how to engage students]” Mr. Kristan said. “[But] you have to [learn] to change with these things, you need to learn to set parameters and do things a little bit differently. It’s a type of science, [but] I [also] still think it’s important that we still read books and talk about old ideas.”

Even though he seems like a natural in the classroom, he never imagined that he would become a teacher. Throughout college, he loved the English pathway he followed, yet once he graduated he realized an English degree did not offer much variety. He figured since he was good at the subject, he would become an English teacher. Once he began teaching, he realized how well he connected with students and how well they learned from him. They loved learning from him because he made the effort to connect, he asked them about themselves and their goals, and continuously followed up months later to see how they were doing.

“It’s almost never about content, so there has to be some other way that you connect,” Mr. Kristan said. “That’s the art of it. [It’s] partially personality but it’s also being who you are. If you’re genuine they can see you in a minute, and then [they]gravitate to [you].”

After teaching for so long, he has grown to be an expert not only with students but also in his field. He continuously offers help and support to the new teachers while also knowing how to keep students entertained and learning. Because he knows the education system inside and out from being a part of it for so long, he also knows it’s time to make changes. He believes students would learn even better with them.

“In education, we’re not open to enough ideas,” Mr. Kristan said. “The best public schools [are] diverse, not just ethnicities, but backgrounds, and ideas, together they jam them together when they wouldn’t be there [otherwise].”

Mr. Kristan believes public schools are the key to our future. He plans to continue teaching and making sure our future generations are well-educated and well-rounded people. He believes at the core, all kids are the same. It is his key to his success, as he was also a student struggling through high school at one time. He always aims to truly understand and work through the challenges of his students.