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Hastings grad to teach at Chinese university

Caleb Schmotter, a 2009 Hastings High School graduate, will be teaching English in China for a year starting this fall. He graduated from Drake University in May. Submitted photo

Caleb Schmotter just graduated from Hastings High School in 2009, and in just a couple months he'll be on his way to teach a university class.

Schmotter just graduated in May from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, with an impressive transcript. In his four years there he earned three bachelor's degrees. In high school, he really enjoyed chemistry, he said. But that wasn't his only interest. He's also always been interested in international relations, and he couldn't decide which he'd rather study. So Schmotter looked for colleges where he could study both. About two years into his studies, he added a third major, politics. He got a leg up into the coursework by testing out of some of the introductory level classes.

"I ended up just doing everything," he said.

And he did it in style, too. Schmotter graduated Magna Cum Laude with Alpha Lambda Delta honors and Pi Sigma Alpha honors. He is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic society. His junior year, he earned Drake's E.A. Sheslow Prize for distinguished leadership, after being nominated by one of his professors. The award is given to one junior student in the College of Arts and Sciences each year and emphasizes leadership and activities. Schmotter interned at the World Food Prize event, was vice president of the university biochemistry club, spent three years as a teacher's assistant, three years as a writing tutor and two years as a writing coach.

This year, he was awarded the C. Walter Clark Award in Politics by his professors. That award is given to one politics student each year, and finding out he had won it caught Schmotter by surprise. He added his politics major late, he said, and hadn't even had classes with all the politics professors who granted him the award.

Over the next year, Schmotter is taking a break from school - sort of. He has plans to continue his education, but before he does he'll be teaching an English course at Guangxi Normal University in Guilin, China.

"I really wanted to teach English abroad," he said.

Although he hadn't taken any teaching classes, he figured his experience as a TA and a writing tutor will help him keep up with the new work.

The first idea was to teach in India, but that trip didn't work out. So he looked into some of Drake's programs and found the university has partner universities in China where he could teach.

Schmotter will be in China for the 2013-14 academic school year, which runs from the end of August this year to mid-July next year. Looking ahead to the trip, he's not sure what to expect, other than a very different style of bathrooms and a bit of culture shock.

Learning at least some of the language is one of his goals. In high school he learned Spanish, like most of his classmates, he said. He doesn't know any Mandarin Chinese, but the program he's working with allows him to take some courses at the university, a perk he plans on taking advantage of, he said.

After his first year, Schmotter might have an option to stay in China and teach longer, but his plans so far are to return to the U.S. to pursue his Ph.D. in peace studies, international relations or conflict resolution. He's got about 10 schools on his list so far he's applying to, and expects to find out if he's been accepted around April or May of next year.

Teaching in China could be Schmotter's doorway to a longer teaching career. The Ph.D. programs he's looking at generally groom students to be professors, and the more he gets into it, the more he's thinking he would like to take the teaching track, he said. China will be a good first test.

"I'm really hoping that I love teaching in China," he said.