By Eve Nevelos, Editorial Staff, ‘24
Mr. Keyser is an English teacher here at Indian Hills. His lessons are often dynamic, engaging, and collaborative, making him a class favorite. Current students of his describe him as eccentric and passionate. Mr. Keyser also co-runs Inscape and Improv club.
What is your favorite book, author, or series?
Oh boy. Well, there’s a lot of answers to that that I suppose you could pick and choose from. My favorite author is Tom Robbins, and my favorite book is by him – Jitterbug Perfume. I also have favorite books to teach that I also enjoy reading but are special in the classroom. My favorite is Kurt Vonnegat – I teach Cat’s Cradle. And my favorite series… I’m very excited for The Kingkiller Chronicles: Wheel of Time to be finished because I really enjoyed the first two books.
When did you do theatre? What plays/musicals did you perform in?
I always loved theatre growing up, but I only thought to audition for the first time as a sophomore. I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m still doing it. I finished a show in October and just recently started rehearsing my newest one, which is a two-person play, and my wife and I were both cast so that’s an interesting experience. I do both plays and musicals, drama and comedy; I really like to hit everything. Notably, I’ve done “You’re in Town” three times – I can’t stop – and my most notable role was probably Darth Vader in “Star Wars: The Musical”.
Do you think that your experience in theatre has benefited your teaching?
Yeah, definitely. It makes teaching drama especially, and really all fiction — because it’s such a significant part of my life outside of class, I feel like I am immersed in it and can bring that to the class. A lot of teachers will say that the job is somewhat of a performance, you know you have an audience five times a day, and I will look at it that way sometimes. If I’m not having a good day, I can bring a different personality to class and that can be a little bit like putting on a performance.
Why did you choose to become a high school English teacher?
Well, my first degrees were in economics and finance. That was a result of panic. I had originally started as an English student, but two weeks before college started I panicked and thought ‘I’ll need a job’ and then pursued degrees that I didn’t actually care about. And then, when I thought about it more reasonably, I realized that the mature choice was to in fact pursue what I like, so I went back for English and Education. English was an easy choice for me, I’ve always loved literature and I’ve always liked English classes the best. I like the kinds of interactions you get to have between student and teacher and the concepts that are explored. High school specifically – mostly because I like addressing literature on that higher level. My mom is a second grade teacher and she has that nurturing element with her students and that’s really her focus in the classroom and the content kind of follows. For me, I like to be able to meet students with problems head on – you’re a fully grown person, let’s talk about some literature.
What are your goals in teaching?
My goals in teaching are always shifting. At the center of my goals of teaching is empathy. That’s the word I always come back to. Students might leave the classroom and never remember the books we read and not remember our relationship, but either way, if they walk away with a better ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, I think that’s a very valuable ability. And, along with that, general critical thinking, analysis, and thinking for one’s self. If a student can walk away having practiced those, ideally with some good memories as well, I feel I’ve done a good job.
Has there been a moment during your teaching career that’s stuck with you?
One of my students from a while back published a book, which I just got a copy of, and that was a very proud moment for me. To see a book authored by one of my former students, that was a big one. That’s a specific example, but in general, when I hear back from students who have graduated and moved on with their lives and hear about the incredible things they’re doing, it’s amazing to think back to when they were little freshmen.
What do you do during your car ride to school?
I’m a big audiobook person, though recently I have been going back to the backlog of podcasts. I’m a podcast fiend right now. My favorite podcast is The Adventure Zone, I like a lot of Dungeons and Dragons and actual play, things like that. I do listen to some comedy podcasts and history podcasts – I like Sawbones right now, which is a medical history of all the really bad ways we used to try to treat people. If my attention wanders – I have a pretty long commute – then I’ll pop on some heavy metal. I’m very musically specific. I’ve been listening to the same two bands for two decades. For two decades, it’s been Tool, and then more recently, it’s been Coheed and Cambria. And I try to be open minded, but I just don’t think anything else is very good.