We caught up with Daniel Racke, the new 4th grade teacher at Coram Deo Academy (who also taught at CDA years ago). We thought parents and students might want to learn more about him. So we asked him the same 10 questions we asked Mr. Barney. Hopefully, this will help everyone get to know him better in advance of the start of school!
1. Please tell us about yourself! Are you married? Have any children? Have any pets? Where are you from? What college did you attend?
Although I was born in Michigan, I’ve been a Hoosier for most of my life (after living a few years in Florida, I decided that the summers weren’t for me). My undergraduate degree in History and German comes from Hillsdale College, and I spent a few years at Purdue working on an MA in History (without acquiring much of an interest in the Boilermakers, sadly). For most of the last 10 years, I’ve been teaching at a few different classical schools, including a year with the 5th and 6th graders at CDA back in 2012!
Last October, I married my childhood friend and classmate Kelsey (we have photos of us in the same kindergarten class!). We live here in Carmel with our rescue dog Sushi, whose insatiable hunger for belly rubs keeps us busy.
2. What influenced you to become a teacher?
Growing up, I was always fascinated with the study of history, devouring books on Ancient Egypt, the Romans, Greek mythology, and castles and kings. I was blessed to have some truly excellent teachers in high school who turned that boyhood interest into a passion for discovering more about human beings, past and present, and the world we live in.
Even before graduating, I knew that I wanted to give back to the classical school community that had contributed so much to my development as a scholar. An interest in theater and public speaking throughout my high school and college years helped me share the passion for learning with those around me. And that fact that teaching is a bit of a family profession didn’t hurt, either.
3. What is one of your hidden talents?
I’m not sure I would call any of my talents “hidden,” but I would judge that one of the great successes of my adult life has been the acquisition of culinary skills. Although I have little doubt I would fail catastrophically, I secretly dream of appearing on one of those competitive cookery shows.
4. What is your favorite book and why?
I will devour books of almost any genre, but the consistent favorite I keep returning to is The Count of Monte Cristo. Stuffed into its hundreds upon hundreds of pages, Dumas’ masterpiece has has it all: interesting historical detail about the early 1800s, discovery of hidden treasure, a byzantine revenge plot orchestrated by the richest man in the world, parties and romance, Italian bandits. Every time I read it, I pick up on something new and interesting.
An honorable mention must go to Sir Terry Pratchett’s fantasy-satire Discworld series, however, as the most enjoyable light reading I’ve yet encountered.
5. What are your hobbies?
I was introduced to Settlers of Catan at a formative age, and have been a maniac for board games ever since (there’s an ongoing war for shelf space between board games and books in our home). I firmly believe that if someone says they don’t enjoy board games, it just means they haven’t played the right game yet.
I also taught myself to crochet a number of years back, and occasionally create small yarn creatures as a way to pass the time.
6. Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by?
In recent years, I’ve taken an interest in the writings of some of the classical Stoic philosophers. One of the foundational Stoic principles is that life’s tragedies and triumphs don’t define us; rather, it is how we react to events that makes us virtuous (or not). I found that the maxim “This too shall pass” is sometimes a helpful reminder to stay focused on what’s really important.
7. Who has inspired you in your life?
I owe a great deal to my parents, but (for my chosen career path) especially my mother, who is my role model for an outstanding teacher. Not a year goes by without a renewed and increased appreciation for all that she managed to teach my siblings and me.
I also had the profound good fortune to fall into the high school literature class of Magister Lortz, who not only held me to the highest of academic standards, but proved definitively that it’s possible to enjoy learning challenging things. I’ve never had to write another alliterative epic saga since Medieval Literature, but the skills I was taught in that class are still with me.
8. What gets you up in the morning?
The soundtrack from How to Train Your Dragon. That’s an alarm I don’t get tired of.
9. What historical figure would you like to spend a day with?
I would have to choose Theodore Roosevelt, for a number of reasons. Besides speaking the same language as me, Teddy was a man of incredible drive and determination. He overcame some devastating challenges and disasters as a boy and a young man to emerge as one of the most ideologically driven presidents we’ve ever had. And the sheer energy of the man! Even as president, he boxed, hiked, rode horses, learned martial arts, and (according to sources who knew him) read an average of a book every day!
I could go on.
10. What would we be surprised to learn about you?
That is rather difficult to answer. You’ll just have to let me know when you’re surprised.