From Spain to LZ: Sr. Kessler’s first year at LZHS


Photo by and used with permission of Nathan Kessler

Nathan Kessler, Spanish teacher, was able to explore Europe during his year teaching in Spain, and is pictured here in Porto, Portugal.

The school’s youngest teacher traveled 6,730 miles to take a job teaching Spanish here this school year. From Spain to Lake Zurich, Nathan Kessler, Spanish teacher, has spent his first year teaching full time in the US mostly online. And while he says his youth helps him empathize with students and work with technology, he says teaching remotely has still been difficult.

“I’ll ask a question and then no one wants to answer, and then I’ll call on someone and they’ll have trouble unmuting themselves,” Kessler said. “When I was in hybrid, I could feel the energy and everybody was so excited and was participating 20 times more and it was just really great; it’s better than talking to a black screen I’d say.”

While immersed in Spanish culture, Kessler was able to compare the Spanish and American school systems. He says a prominent cultural difference he noticed was that Spanish schools were more informal, especially with punctuality.

“People show up late. The teachers show up late. Like it’s not a big deal I guess, and all the teachers are wearing t-shirts, and very relaxed and [the students] call the teacher by their first name,” Kessler said.

Kessler also says that the Spanish high school was much smaller than a typical American high school like LZHS.

“I remember we did a lot of cultural comparisons when I was working over there, and they were really amazed to see that we have a football field and a huge auditorium or a big gym and like a cafeteria,” Kessler said. “I think the United States really likes to do things big. Like everything needs to be very huge or flashy, and then Spain was just kind of like, ‘this is what it is.’”

“I think the United States really likes to do things big. Like everything needs to be very huge or flashy, and then Spain was just kind of like, ‘this is what it is.’”

— Nathan Kessler, Spanish teacher

Despite these differences, Kessler says the Spanish students were very similar to his current American ones in work ethic. According to Kessler, his year in Spain changed him for the better, and is glad he took the opportunity to experience Spanish culture firsthand and learn the intricacies of the language.

Kessler grew up in Highland Park, and said that in high school, “I was actually having kind of a hard time with Spanish. But there was a teacher that [noticed] that I was struggling, and she was really persistent in getting me to meet with her, and I finally did and we went over a lot of stuff. It just really helped me so much and made such a great impact on me. I think she’s one of the reasons why I’m a teacher now, […] and I want to do the same for my students.”

After two years of graduate school, Kessler went to Spain for a year and taught English, he says, “to take a year to really hone my skills with teaching, explore Europe, and enjoy.”

Now he uses his passion for Spanish to teach the language at LZHS. Even though this school year is far from normal, Kessler is still enjoying his first year at the high school.

“I couldn’t be happier. It’s been an amazing experience so far. All the students are really awesome, they’re hard workers. They’ve got great personalities and they really make my job a lot more enjoyable,” Kessler said.

As a new teacher, Kessler is still finding his voice and style. He says teacher programs encourage new teachers to “set the tone” and be a little stricter to gain student’s respect. But Kessler says he feels that doesn’t always align with his personality, which is more “laidback” with “clear expectations.”

“I find when I’m being myself, I’m teaching my best classes,” Kessler said. “Where I can joke around with students and have conversations and feel comfortable and have everybody feel comfortable in the classroom, that’s when I’m doing the best.”