Making The Classroom Fun

Social Studies teacher Mr. Matthew Howe is making school life more enjoyable for his students.


Jose Guzman

Hooray! As the RLHS Scholastic Bowl Christmas Party comes to a close, Howe makes students burst out in laughter. His ability to connect with students in such a fantastic way has made him into an alumni favorite.

Jose Guzman, Staff Write

Round Lake High School social studies teacher Mr. Matthew Howe enters his quiet, peaceful classroom and begins working on his computer, monitoring the grades of his five daily classes. This silence is broken by a rushing influx of groggy students, whose attitudes brighten as class goes on. Throughout the day, Howe creates a learning environment that remains formal but still has a positive atmosphere because of his teaching approach. At the end of Wednesdays and Thursdays, he takes charge of the Scholastic Bowl, a competition-based extracurricular that pits two teams against each other in a game of trivia and problem-solving (a remarkably different environment to a classroom), and yet he remains a great leader that inspires students to keep going and to be successful.

From morning to afternoon, Howe radiates positivity to students and truly sets an example as an ideal leader of a student body. His never-ending patience allows his pupils to gain trust in him and leave their negativity behind once they enter the door. His outstanding ability to adapt to individual students lets a program as unique as the Scholastic Bowl to thrive under his guidance. A teacher like Howe can genuinely inspire students to reach out and strive for success.

Howe is a patient teacher that rarely gets angry, a trait that he had improved over time since his substitute teacher days years ago. A patient teacher can give students a positive attitude coming into class, even if the course is stressful. For example, if a teacher rarely or never lashes against students, students would experience less anxiety going into the classroom if there is something wrong. By many, Howe was seen as this, one of the “nice” teachers that you weren’t scared to speak with. “I didn’t feel as bad going into class because of Mr. Howe,” said RLHS Sophomore Gregory Bohan, a past student of Howe. “He was never condescending and that improved my experience in AP Human Geo.” A teacher with a patient attitude can significantly improve students’ performance in the classroom. According to a study at Istanbul Kultur University in Istanbul, Turkey, 91.2% of students believed that a teacher with a positive attitude improved their school performance.

Howe also has a knack for adapting to students’ forms of learning, an intimidating topic for many.  Teaching is not a “one size fits all” practice, as different students and different circumstances can greatly affect a classroom environment. “[Teaching] is something that over time you find out what is the culture in the classroom and what those students respond to best,” said Howe about his approach to teaching. “You find out what’s best for that classroom instead of what works for other people.”  A teacher also needs to tailor themselves to support students’ unique ways of approaching teamwork.  “For students in my classes and especially in Scholastic Bowl, teamwork is essential,” said Howe. “But every student is different so I as well as other students have to adapt to that for it to work properly.”

Howe has also served as a fantastic leader of the RLHS Scholastic Bowl for two years, a casual environment filled with happy and energetic students, and yet stays on top. Among the rumble of student conversations, memes, and Burger King, Howe manages to maintain order and make sure that progress is made. “He is a good leader, but he also allows us to have fun,” said RLHS Sophomore and Scholastic Bowl member Lauren Domalik. “He’s not strict, but he still gets stuff done.” In one corner of the classroom, you might find a group of students studying country capitals and in another, a group chatting and studying 19th-century American literature. Despite the variety, he maintains solid work ethic without sacrificing fun by giving advice on how to do better at meets and allowing conversation and jokes if students are actually studying.

In the morning, Howe enters his quiet classroom, sits down at his desk, and calmly gets to work on printing assignments and meeting up with both teachers and faculty. However, mornings haven’t always been this peaceful for Howe. It has taken him time to perfect the organizational skills that make him as successful as he is.He reminisces about his early years teaching, when he would dedicate entire afternoons to organizing individual days of lessons, and expresses the drastic improvement that he displayed over time. “I was probably spending four or five hours organizing for the next day and five or six hours on the weekends grading,” said Howe over his early teaching work ethic. “Nowadays it takes me a half hour to an hour to plan instead of the hours that it used to take me.”

A teacher needs to be versatile in a classroom and extracurricular setting. Howe is an excellent example of this. He has  patience for students, a critical skill in classes as demanding as the ones he teaches. His ability to adapt to students is a necessary skill for perfect synergy. He can plan lessons in a quick manner that benefits both teacher and alumni, another fantastic and essential skill. No matter if he needs to teach a stampede of students during the school day or lead the Round Lake Scholastic Bowl team, Howe always rises to the top as an active leader and an exemplary role model.