Many students go through their day at school with teachers who aren’t as enthusiastic and don’t try to make connections with each individual student. But student who take college prep instructor and former math teacher Kristian Hokinson get another experience entirely.
After teaching for 27-years, at various locations — including Waianae High School in Hawaii in addition to schools in Chicago and Gurnee — Hokinson has learned to understand his students and the importance of engaging them and making things easier to learn based on their needs.
“As a math teacher, I tried my best to make the math relevant to them and to let them see how much fun and enjoyment the math brought to me,” says Hokinson. “I would hope that the enthusiasm would rub off. I would also try to make sure that the kids had something to look forward to every day in class. As I’ve grown older, I realized that the best way to engage my students is to remember that they are human beings the same as me.
“I’m no better than my students,” he adds. “I’ve just been around the sun more times than they have. I treat them with the same respect I want them to give me, and I still throw in the occasional dad joke.”
Through his years of teaching, Hokinson has one way of teaching that some teachers and parents disagree with: grades don’t matter. Hokinson is a firm believer that students should focus on their studies and what they’re learning, rather than their grades.
“Grades are fleeting,” he explains. “They represent your level of performance at one point in your life. Learning and understanding is forever. You can take it with you for the rest of your life. Ultimately, as a student, you do not have control over what grade a teacher puts down on your paper/test. You do have control over how much effort you put into understanding the material preparing for the assessment. Focus on what you have control over, the understanding and preparation.”
Additionally, when remote learning, many students were stuck watching after younger siblings, and Hokinson found a way to help that. Through the screen, Hokinson would change his background to fictional kids shows to entertain the siblings while he met with his students.
Hokinson’s genuine and outgoing personality is what makes learning so much more enjoyable, and are reflected through students such as junior Maddy Khan.
“I enjoy having Hokinson as a teacher because he’s always willing to help and understand how each and every one of his students are doing.” says Khan.
Other teachers, administrators, and staff members enjoy Hokinson’s personality as well, including Nicholas Custodio, math teacher and division coordinator.
“I have worked with Mr. Hokinson for 12-years,” says Custodio. “I love Mr. Hokinson’s genuine care and attention to detail he provides in anything he does. Whether it be from working with his students or making sure the lesson or feedback he provides to his classes, Mr. Hokinson always puts his student’s learning first.”
Hokinson’s attitude toward school, and to his students has made many feel welcomed, and even like family.
“[My favorite part of teaching is] the time I spend talking with my students. I am constantly amazed at the stories that students share with me and the new things I learn from students every year. Like my family, they give meaning and purpose to my life,” he concludes.