Kozar teaches life lessons with literature By Wayne Yeager, Staff Writer
discusses Gulliver's Travels with his
Grant County High School senior English class.Kozar
was named a semi-finalist for the Ashland Teacher of the Year.
DRY RIDGE , Joe Kozar
doesn't teach literature at Grant County High School
teaches about life.
Using classic tales like Paradise Lost and Gulliver's Travels, he
shows students at GCHS
that the authors were writing about real life and that the author's struggle can help the students sort out some of the problems in their own lives.
"These authors did not write for you to read their work in a vacuum," Kozar
said."They wanted humans to know how they struggled with their life and how they overcame it.I love watching students' faces when they capture what we're talking about.It's fascinating to read what they say after the light comes on."Kozar, an English teacher at GCHS, was recently named one of nine semi-finalists for the Ashland Teacher of the Year Award, a list that was narrowed down from 41,000 nominations.
was excited and surprised to be named a semi-finalist, he's
not certain he
belongs among those honored.
...Kozar, who is also the pastor at Willow Creek Baptist Church in Bracken County, has been happy to oblige.He
students to know he
cares about them and their lives.
"It's very important to me that they know I care," Kozar
said."You can't convince everyone that you do, but that's why I always stand by my door and talk with students.I make myself available before and after class and I try to cultivate relationships with parents." Kozar
considers Jesus Christ as the ultimate teacher and not just because of his
faith, though he
believes you can't separate faith from life much like you can't separate life from literature.He
admires the way Jesus used different methods to get the attention of his
followers and didn't always do what people expected.He
tries the same method in his
One day, when his
class was noisy and he
couldn't quiet them down, he
wrote the word "Test" on the board, sat down and began reading a book.After a few moments the class quieted down and asked whether they were being tested.He
then began class.
No topic is off limits either, as long as it fits the framework of the lesson being taught.
While discussing Gulliver's Travels, he
delved into the Catholic-Protestant conflict, economy and the government and art versus intellect.
At one point, he
posed a hypothetical question to the class.If someone proposed to make all American laws revert back to the Constitution,doing away with Social Security, welfare, the Internal Revenue Service
and every other government service not specified in the Constitution,but in 50 years America would be a utopia, would you do it?The students response: No, because they weren't willing to suffer for 50 years to get there.Kozar
tied that into Lagarda in Gulliver's Travels, where they were asking questions and didn't want to know the answers.
"We're not always sure we want the answers," Kozar
then used the examples of drug counseling and marriage, both of which require sacrifices that some are unwilling to pay.
That's one of his
engages students and he
hopes they engage him back.
"A lot of people underestimate teenagers," Kozar
said."Teenagers can do what they want to do.They're that good.Grant County
has some of the best and the brightest, both in terms of teachers and as students."Kozar
, though, only spends half his
day teaching.In the morning, he
teaches three classes of senior English.After lunch, he
switches to the role of writing consultant, where he
spends most of his
day working on professional development for teachers in preparation for portfolios and works with seniors on their portfolio pieces.In addition to teaching, writing consultant and pastoral duties, Kozar also chairs the English department.He
admits it's a lot of work with many roles to play, but he
enjoys what he
"Sometimes I don't know how I do it," Kozar
said."But I believe in the strength of the Lord to get me through it."Kozar
, who is married and has two children, lives in Dry Ridge.He's been a teacher for 14 years in the Grant County school system and has been a pastor for five years. (He was a youth minister for three years before that.)He
may have many different roles as well as a family, but don't expect Kozar
to leave the classroom any time soon.Despite overtures by the school to make him a full-time writing consultant, he's
resisted the urge.The Ashland Teacher of the Year semi-finalist doesn't want to leave the classroom behind.
"For where I am in life, it would kill me to leave the classroom,"Kozar