After responding to a plea from his former high school teacher, Alex Koch is now the newest member of the English department.

On September 4, Koch took over the classes of  Karl Wallin, a former English teacher, and Koch is now in charge of STRIPES (Students Teaching Respect through Improvised Peer Educational Skits), English 11 and Communications. Koch also took on English 9 after some adjustments were made to the master schedule.

“Mr. Koch came back to teach because of Mr. Wallin,” said senior and STRIPES student Memphis Cleveland.

Wallin personally asked Koch to fill his position over the summer. Koch said that he had Wallin as his AP English teacher when he attended Black River Falls High School.

“I think he was a phenomenal teacher. He was an inspiration to many students,” said Cleveland. “Whatever you’re going through, he understands it on a deeper level.”

They’re very big shoes to fill, but Koch is grateful that Wallin sought him out for the position. Koch had planned to stay in Madison, but when his mentor asked him to interview for the position, he couldn’t decline the offer.

Koch previously subbed for BRAGS (Black River Area Green School) after graduating college, but he never thought that he would work as a full-time teacher for the district.

Koch said that he has received some resistance from students that were expecting Wallin as their teacher, but that the resistance is understood.

He tells himself, “I’ve endured worse, so teaching shouldn’t be too bad,” referring to his previous experience of being in the military. He doesn’t believe that his military experience has influenced the way he interacts with students, but he does feel like it has made him more of a mentor.

“It’s good being here because the staff are some of the teachers I used to have. They’re very helpful, patient and kind of guide me,” said Koch.

He said that it would be a different story if he had chosen to work at a different school.

Koch explained that the struggles he has faced so far have been in STRIPES, not with the students, but with the fact that STRIPES isn’t planned the same as an ordinary English class. Although he does have a theater background, which he tries to work into the class as much as possible, he said that the group is a lot bigger than he’s used to. Getting to know the students is both challenging and important.

“I think adapting to the technology too has been kind of hard for me,” he said, referring to himself as a Luddite. A Luddite is someone who is opposed to the development of new technology.

The last-minute hire was a struggle for him as well. Koch said that he barely had time to set up his classroom.

“It’s a lot at once,” he said.