Doug Wilhelm

11:34 AM, Dec 30, 2010   |    comments
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"Dates are important if you look at them right. However, they're only there to provide context. What else was going on at that time and what else was going on to influence that?"

In his second floor classroom at Hamilton Middle School in Denver, Wilhelm's students jump out of their seats when participating in class. They are enthused and spirited.

Wilhelm's always loved history but he took a roundabout way to teaching. The Ohio native was first a lumber salesman and then worked in the financial industry.

More than 20 years ago, Wilhelm packed up his VW and drove to Colorado because he thought that this would be a good place to settle down. Once here, he decided to go back to school and study history. Afterward, he answered the calling to be a teacher. Middle School was his top choice.

"I love this age group. They are mature enough that they can get some complex ideas but they are still kids. They are fun, playful and optimistic."

Alec Sarche, a former student says Wilhelm's "love for education shines through regularly and rubs off onto the students. He makes the students want to learn about the Civil War or the American Revolution. He is a teacher who students feel they need to impress to show him that they too can be good historians."

Sarche is one of many former students who wrote nomination letters about Wilhelm to the 9Teachers Who Care program.

Once they graduate from Hamilton Middle School, the relationship with Wilhelm is not completely over. Wilhelm makes a point to keep in touch with them in a unique way.

During the eighth grade year, the students compile a "life map" which questions who they are and what they're expecting of their future (at least until their junior year in high school).

"That is usually when they're choosing colleges. Friends write them letters and we create artifacts throughout the year and then, they give me an envelope and I send it to them when they're juniors in high school. At the beginning of every year, it's cute. I get calls: 'Did you send it yet? Did you send it?'"

Wilhelm is amazed by how much his students mature during the course of the school year. He admits that in August each year, the students don't really grasp the relevance of American History.

"Confusion is the first step to understanding," he said. 

His classrooms inspire and challenge the students to where they are compelled to do their best with each lesson.

Last year, one of Wilhelm's former students wrote to him to inform him that she was awarded a Boettcher Scholarship at the University of Colorado. She told him since leaving middle school, she still considered him to the teacher who most influenced her life.

Hamilton MS Principal, Reina Jasso Gutierrrez tells 9NEWS: "I will never forget how complimentary this former student was of Mr. Wilhelm and the credit she gave him for her success as a student."

To compliments like that one, Wilhelm is humble. He credits the environment at Hamilton Middle School. He is honored to work among the other teachers and flattered by the students and parents' dedication to education.

Wilhelm says he is fortunate because he learns a lot every day.

"I get to go to school too. It's kind of nice," he said.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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