Meet the Teacher: Peter Helm, Niles High School art

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

School: Niles High School

Grade(s)/subject(s) taught: Art

Where did you attend college? Eastern Michigan University

How many years have you been teaching? How many years have you been with your current school? I’ve been teaching now for five years, four years with Niles. Hopefully, forever. 

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I always enjoyed helping others and teaching is a great way to do that. I had some teachers that were so wonderful and I wanted to be wonderful like them. I also had terrible teachers and vowed never to end up like them. That mix of things made me want to be a teacher. I guess in the end my goal was to make students have fun with school, like my greatest teachers in my life did. 

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? Illustrating, drawing is the tops, of course. I really like videogames, but usually single player games. The online stuff is nonsense nowadays. I like to hang out with my wife and play board games.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? My favorite days are when I don’t talk at all. I love talking to everyone, but I enjoy silence just as much.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Ryu from Street Fighter. He works hard, he isn’t afraid.

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? Virtually the same. Probably the biggest difference is that I went from Tae Kwon Do to Krav Maga.

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? I think most teachers would describe me properly as relaxed. I know better than to roast myself though and expand on this.

Who is your biggest role model and why? My father. He taught me to always work hard, complain little, try your best and always have a sense of humor. He never stops working and succeeding.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? People complain a lot. Some of it justified, some of it not. Technology makes things a lot easier. “YouTube University” has made it so education is so open to the world, but nothing beats teaching in person. But at the same time, students are less tolerant of “movie day” and things like that because they can do that at home, they want to learn things that the internet can teach them.

If I would want my students to understand anything it’s that technology makes thing simpler but it does not make it any less hard. Anything worth learning still takes time and dedication and no amount of technology will change that.

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? Reward education, show them you acknowledge their successes and push them when they have failures to get out of their slumps. Don’t settle for mediocrity, but be understanding when it happens. Above all, I think they should talk to them and show them that they care.

So many students I talk to say how their parents only care about their grades, not about them, and that’s not how it should be. The tail should not wag the dog.

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… Learn to love your education. Be excited to learn new things. Don’t learn things just to forget them after the test, make it interesting for yourself and you’ll find knowledge to be a fun and inviting place. It’ll also make life much more interesting if you enjoy learning. Forget about the grades, the grades will come with your learning. Learn past your grades, and strive for excellence in your field that you desire.

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