Jason Klinger brings world view into classroom to inspire deeper thinking


Maddie Monroe

Jason Klinger poses under his world map with a smile

Jason Klinger was 8 years old when he stood in Germany and watched in amazement as the Berlin wall came to the ground.

He was speechless as he watched the large concrete blocks fall. Graffiti sprayed on the walls with letters to lost loved ones eventually fell apart, but families and lovers who were affected by this wall were finally able to reconnect in person.

As a young boy, he traveled often to many different countries with his family. He fell in love with history as he watched this significant event occur.

But little did he know he would be teaching his students about this event 30 years later.

For Klinger, a Britain-born and 1999 grad currently in his third year of full time teaching, the Berlin Wall story is one of many first-hand travel experiences he uses to make his social studies classes come alive. He finds that he teaches best when he can bring in information from his life, not just a textbook.

“One of the things I teach best is the Holocaust,” Klinger said. “ I teach that so well because my parents took me to those places, so, I’ve been to Auschwitz, and I’ve been to some of the other camps. When you’re there, you really experience it in such a different way.”

His students, including senior Lillian Mears and sophomore Gabby Scott appreciate how his traveling experiences have influenced his teaching.

“His experiences abroad have helped him become a better teacher,” Scott said. “With world history he can bring in his knowledge that you can only obtain from living in another country.”

His traveling has helped him become the person he is today.

“I think I’ve got a pretty quirky, nerdy vibe,” Klinger said. ¨You know, the guy who reads a lot.”

Aaron Blain has taught history alongside Klinger for 3 years and he has observed the attitudes and opportunities Klinger has opened for his students.

“Mr. Klinger is really an A-class teacher,” Blain said. “He really finds ways to connect with each of his students, and that greatly impacts his teaching.”

Students Scott and Mears believe that he has had a positive influence on the Model UN group. As the Model UN adviser, Klinger uses his first hand experiences in education and around the globe to bring his students a multitude of different experiences.

“We’ve been to Chicago, MSU and Ann Arbor,” Klinger said. “And I know that it is a big step, but in the next couple of years I hope that Model UN will get the chance to travel to Europe and attend a conference there.”

Because of Grand Haven’s small size, Klinger finds people are often not as inclined to understand cultures other than their own.

“A lot of Model UN clubs tend to look at things from the American perspective, not from global perspectives,” Mears said. “They will look at other countries based on America’s view on those countries, rather than how those countries actually see themselves. He encourages us to go beyond that. He tells us we should research independent news sources to find international perspectives.”

To further broaden his student’s experiences, Klinger’s group of Model UN students led a conference right here, at Grand Haven high school this last January.

“I think that the most important way that his international perspective affects the club is in his willingness to be our advisor at all,” Mears said. “It’s a lot of sacrificed weekends, arcane rules, and independent work … we could never do it without Mr. Klinger. It really is a lot of work for someone to take on.”

His model UN kids greatly appreciate his dedication and drive when it comes to advising Model UN and working with students.

“It takes a lot of motivation to be willing to do all that, and Mr. Klinger has that motivation because he pays more attention to global affairs than a lot of adults do,” Mears said. “He recognizes the importance of training the next generation to think more globally, and it’s a priority for him.”

Klinger doesn’t only work with students in Grand Haven, but he also helps with programs at Spring Lake that he founded. Additionally, he provided the resources and framework for others to establish programs in West Ottawa and Grandville.

“I think that I like to give them practical things, so if I can find a practical application of the real world, I do,” Klinger said. “I think that it’s pretty important for them to see a connection between what they’re learning and what they are living or else there’s no point in learning it.”