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Everyday Hero: Matt Koll

Crystal Lake South choir teacher wears many hats to help students

Crystal Lake South High School choir director Matt Koll warms up his students with vocal exercises during a class. Koll serves the school and students in a number of ways, ranging from activities director, assistant humanities division leader and theater manger.
Crystal Lake South High School choir director Matt Koll warms up his students with vocal exercises during a class. Koll serves the school and students in a number of ways, ranging from activities director, assistant humanities division leader and theater manger.

During the school day, Matt Koll is Crystal Lake High School’s choir teacher, directing youngsters while they sing.

At one point, Koll directs his students to put a single hand on their face.

“We do physical things every now and again to reinforce the vocal techniques,” Koll said. “To sing well, you need a whole lot of space in your mouth. Otherwise, it just doesn’t come out well. When they put their hand here, it’s just a reminder. It also physically relaxes your face and makes your face taller.”

For Koll, from Lake in the Hills, being a teacher at the high school isn’t about just being in a classroom from 7:25 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. He has multiple roles that help improve students’ experiences.

Koll’s school-day commitment begins at 5:15 a.m. At the school, Koll also serves as activities director for the school, as well as theater manager.

After school, he’s working with musical practice, play practice or choir practice, “so that means I have to come in before school,” Koll said.

Koll became activities director six years ago when the position was created.

“At that point, I was only four or five years in, but very interested in the school in a larger context than my little room here,” Koll said. “I applied, thought I had some good ideas, but, certainly, as a young teacher, not expecting much. I was hired in that role. It’s a neat role.”

Koll helps facilitate communication between clubs, makes sure clubs with overlapping members don’t have conflicting meeting days and he’s helped create activity web pages.

“There wasn’t really a point person for that before,” Koll said. “The sponsors are just incredible. They do most of that legwork without me, but they need someone to start the email chain.”

Koll, who also serves as assistant humanities division leader at the school, helped develop a system to help students when they prepare to take the ACT.

Koll, and his division leader, Lori Ratliff, created a system that translates practice ACT data into user-friendly information that generates reports to tell students how they performed in certain sections or areas of the standardized exam. They also included links on the reports for students to improve.

Reports generated for students are personalized based off of their practice results.

“Matt is one of the most selfless, inspiring teachers I have ever met,” Ratliff wrote in an email to the Northwest Herald. “He is often the first to arrive (two hours before school even starts) and the last to leave, devoting countless hours to making sure the students at South receive the best education possible.”

Koll, 31, helped out before a recent school board meeting where he was present in case there were any questions about a piano purchase. After he arrived and put his stuff down, he went outside of the district office and helped salt the sidewalk.

“It’s my district, and there’s public that comes to board meetings. I don’t want the public slipping on our steps,” Koll said.

As the theater manager, his job is to schedule the use of the space, manage the maintenance of the space and advocate for new lighting and audio systems when needed.

For Koll, however, working in the choir room is where he wants to be, especially his classes of all boys.

“Some of these young boys are lost, kind of clueless,” Koll said. “I started to focus on my boys in the program. I started to build relationships with the boys. The result of that has been really neat. I’ve been able to have some meaningful conversations.”

Many of the conversations have been along the lines of “had someone pulled me aside when I was your age, I wish they had said any number of things,” Koll said.

“I’ve been amazed how some of those conversations have been, and, hopefully, impactful the conversations have been.”

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