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Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

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Klingenberger Writes the Wrongs

David Klingenberger enters his third period Great American Writers AP class (G.A.W.) holding a cup of coffee, his first of six for the day. He casually walks up to the stand located in the front of the classroom and adjusts his coat. Straying from his usual formal attire of dress pants and a matching sports coat, Klingenberger is dressed for casual Friday, wearing light jeans, a sports coat, and his signature black, thick-rimmed glasses. He adjusts his coat, addresses his students with a smile, and begins the discussion.

The classroom, located in a somewhat hidden area at one end of the second floor, is unlike any other in Niles West. The desks are set up in rows on a black staircase, similar to one used during a choir concert, chairs and tables are placed randomly around the room, six big speakers hang from the ceiling, and a large projection screen is ready to be put down for Klingenberger’s film class.

Thirteen lamps, ranging in size, shape, and color line the walls. At times, they emanate the only source of light for the classroom, which can get dark since the windows are blocked by wooden, black boards. Six decorated rugs hang on the walls and a miniature one is used as Klingenberger’s mouse pad. A total of 71 photos, posters, and pieces of art hang on the wall. With so many things to look at, one can easily get distraced, but Klingenberger’s students are facing him and paying close attention, writing down notes from time to time. It’s difficult to imagine day-dreaming while Klingenberger is speaking; everything he says is an important contribution to the class discussion.

“The reason I went into teaching was I took a course in rhetoric and composition and I realized that I couldn’t be a high school teacher if my job was to read books and talk about people’s feelings. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time doing that, and I thought almost everybody would like to be a better writer than they are, and that writing is something that you can really teach,” Klingenberger says.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in English, a Masters Degree in Rhetoric and Composition, and 21 years of teaching at Niles West behind him, it’s safe to assume that Klingenberger knows what he’s doing. His teaching style has evolved to its finest form.

“[Klingenberger] expects a lot of you and gives you all the tools you need to do well, but doesn’t hold your hand, though I guess that should be expected in an AP class,” says junior Jack Thornton.

“When I first started teaching, I had all these rules, rules, rules, rules, rules. I think I was kind of stricter, and I know it may be hard for some students to believe this, but I’ve become much more lenient…there are fewer things that I ask students to do,” Klingenberger says.

There is no typical class day for G.A.W. students. To simplify things, Klingenberger does what most English teachers do: he teaches his students how to be good readers and good writers. As a matter of fact, most of his students are already considered good readers and writers when they enter his class for the first time in August, but Klingenberger tries to make them even better. His class discussions get to the core of literature and writing.

“[G.A.W.]  class discussions often explore broader themes and the ways in which we analyze texts are thought-provoking and interesting,” says junior Robert Svaia.

Disclaimer: these are not the only things that the school year is about for G.A.W. students. Klingenberger makes it a point to add art, film, and architecture, some of his own interests, into his curriculum. There are days known as art days that are solely dedicated to art. For one day in the spring, Klingenberger takes his G.A.W. students to explore Downtown Chicago and study the architecture. To show other ways of getting one’s points across, he shows a series of films, including his favorite, “Vertigo,” in class.

Klingenberger is also a big music fan. He tends to only listen to music that is recent, but he makes an exception for his favorite band, Radiohead. Every Tuesday, he wakes up 15 minutes early to download music on iTunes, when the store adds new songs.

When Klingenberger is not pursuing his interests outside of school, chances are he’s reading papers and, as you can imagine, he reads thousands every year.

“It’s morning, noon, and night. It’s every weekend. People make fun of me. I’m standing in line at the airport and I have a stack of papers. Anywhere I go, I have a stack of papers,” Klingenberger says.

As for any advice he has for his students about writing or life in general, that can be summed up by a quote located on his bulletin board: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

“Another reason I became a teacher was to try to right the wrongs that I thought I saw a lot of times in education, and education is not about giving people grades, education is about learning something. Everyone forgets that grades aren’t what it’s about. Learning is what it’s about,” Klingenberger says.

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  • T

    TheProcrastinatorFeb 24, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Honestly, maybe one of toughest teachers I’ve ever had, but also one of the best English teachers I’ve had in my life with Mr. Bellwoar as #1.
    If you go into one of his classes, expect to do work. Expect to pay attention and work hard.
    You’ll get the grade you DESERVE, and nothing more or less.

  • F

    Former StudentFeb 19, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Mr. Klingenberger was definitely the best teacher I had at West. And his class really does just make you a smarter person. It’s worth all the work and all the struggles because by the end of it you will be able to write (and think) faster, and better.

  • A

    Alyssa GuzmanFeb 16, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    I’m going to be taking GAW next year, and I’ve had mixed emotions about it. Some nervous, some excited. Reading this story relaxed me a little, because it gave me a sense of what to expect. I think that more stories on individual teachers and specific courses should be posted to inform the underclassmen what they’re in for in the years ahead.