He just missed out on the title of History Teacher of the Year: Daan Krahmer of the Eckart College in Eindhoven. The 28-year-old teacher was entered by his students for the competition, which focuses on innovative, current and innovative education. And the fact that he didn’t win doesn’t really matter to him. “People suddenly started listening to my opinion because of this, pretty crazy.”

    Written by

    Carlin Kosters

    History lessons in the Netherlands are based on a model from 2001, with periods and goals that you as a student should know. “Actually, that model is a bit dated. It’s often written and conceived from the point of view of the white, straight European man. It’s about winners and conquerors, not so much about enslaved, oppressed women or people of color. I’m fine with that otherwise.”

    The idea behind this is that more students see themselves and their personal history reflected in the teaching material. So that they feel seen and heard. Especially in Eindhoven, says Krahmer, where the region is bursting with expats, guest workers and people with a migration background. His class is a color pallet, in which every student has received a different life story from his parents and grandparents.

    “History is alive. That’s not something from the past: we’re in the middle of it.”

    “I think it’s best when students talk to each other. For example, I had a girl in my class who had to flee from Lebanon at a young age. She had experienced things there that I still find too intense to recount. She suffered a lot from traumas, but at a certain point she felt safe enough to talk about it in class. That composition also includes children who have prejudices against refugees. If they talk to each other, a hearing a human story and eventually even becoming friends, that’s wonderful. History is alive. That’s not something from the past: we’re in the middle of it.”

    Another way in which the teacher translates his subject to the students is by linking famous people of today to events of the past. Musicians, for example, like Rapper Kanye West, who made rather controversial comments about Hitler and the Jewish community.

    “If I drop the term anti-Semitism in such a class, it doesn’t mean much to them at first. But if I link that to a rapper they all know themselves, or whose brand they even wear, they have one image. They start to think about what they think about it.”

    “When they told me they look at the world differently because of me, I almost cried.”

    The teacher’s interactive and up-to-date lessons endear him. He writes stories for his lessons and makes drawings for them. “I try to stay close to myself and be approachable,” he explains. The nomination for the competition for History teacher of the year was therefore primarily a token of appreciation from his students. “When they told me that they have started to look at the world differently because of me and that I felt like a friend, I almost cried.”

    Krahmer made it to the top three of the competition, which is organized annually by the public broadcasters, the National Archives and the Rijksmuseum. “Actually, I’m glad I didn’t win, because it’s a lot of work in addition to my regular job. But I see it as confirmation that I’m doing something that suits my students. So I’ll keep doing my thing.”