2016 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll
F.L. Schlagle High School, 1994
Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Hawthorne Elementary, Welborn Elementary, and Coronado Middle.
While some people know what they want to do early in life, and everything they do drives them towards that goal, others take a more winding path to discovering their purpose in life. Cecil Christwell didn’t always know that teaching was his calling, but he is sure it is what he was meant to do.
Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, Christwell was a baseball player, eventually earning a scholarship to play in college at Coppin State, where he became an academic all-American. While in college, he majored in computer science, and when he graduated, he came back to Kansas City and went to work for Hallmark Cards.
During his time at Hallmark, he coached baseball at Bishop Ward under head coach Dennis Hurla, from whom he learned a lot about working with students. The desire to work with young people, and make a difference in their lives, tugged at him, and when he learned about the Teaching Fellows program (which helps professionals from other fields to become teachers) he decided to make the leap.
Currently, he teaches math and serves as the athletic director at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. He enjoys working with young adults, helping them see the value of education, and helping them to appreciate a subject that many people frown upon, and really don’t value. He still draws inspiration from the adults who inspired his success, including Mr. Young, who was always talking to him about what it means to be successful, and Mr. May, whose teaching and leadership style serves as a model for him.
Thirteen years ago, Christwell and fellow Reasons to Believe honoree Jarius Jones took a group of students to Pittsburg State for a math competition. On the way back, they thought: “Why not us?” With the support of then-Wyandotte High School math coach Mary Stewart and others, Math Relays has grown to an annual event with over 1,000 students competing in math!
“Don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith,” Christwell says. “A lot of people have dreams, but they get scared. When those times come up in your life…don’t be afraid to take advantage of the opportunity. Figure out in your life what you see yourself doing as far as making an impact, and try to drive your passion towards that.”