What do you do when a 20-year military career comes to an end?
For soon-to-be-retired soldier Kristopher Van Beveren ‘20, the answer is easy—you teach.
For the first part of Van Beveren’s Army career, he served as a cavalry scout—the eyes and ears of the Army, gathering information on the enemy during battle. Over the course of his career he switched to corrections, working in the military prisons. But his real passion was always teaching.
When he first encountered Chaminade University at the on-base education center in 2005, he had just arrived at Schofield Barracks fresh off a deployment to Iraq. Van Beveren liked that Chaminade was a local school, and he could take classes on base in the evenings. With our presence on base, soldiers can take a combination of on-base and online classes to work toward a bachelor’s degree.
He enrolled as a secondary education major, but his time on-island was short-lived before deploying again to Iraq.
Fast forward to 2017. He returned to Hawai‘i, this time with a wife and young children to support. With his 20-year Army anniversary on the horizon and thoughts of retirement looming, he re-enrolled in Chaminade’s program.
He started again in the secondary education program, but soon he switched to a major in historical and political studies. He had his eye set on teaching high school—the time in his life when teachers were the most influential. Switching majors, he realized, would help him pass the single subject exam for social studies—or, depending on which state he and his family ended up in, would wipe out the extra requirement altogether.
Like most active-duty students, his time at Chaminade was a combination of online and on-base classes. In the beginning, he took classes on base in the evening. The timing provided the flexibility he needed to work full time, and it was easier for him to learn in person.
“I would recommend the evening classes to any of my fellow soldier counterparts,” says Van Beveren. “The professors are really accommodating because they have jobs as well. They don’t severely overload you, but they get enough in to make it challenging.”
Toward the end, evening classes became difficult while raising his family, so he switched to online classes.
“You definitely have to be more disciplined to get it all done online,” confesses Van Beveren. “But I’ve had a really good experience. If you’re self-motivated, online is a great avenue because you can do it all at your own pace. Sometimes the professors will post the whole course online upfront, so if you wanted, you could knock it out in three weeks instead of ten.”
It helped having supportive professors who were adept at teaching online. Dr. Mitch Yamasaki, a history professor, was one who particularly stood out. “I have to say that he is one of the best online professors I have had,” says Van Beveren, commenting on the amount of thought and detail that goes into Yamasaki’s lectures and study guides. “His courses are very thorough and very well put together. I have retained a lot of knowledge by the way the information is presented.”
It’s an emotional time for Van Beveren. He graduates next month, something he’s wanted for a long time.
“I put it off for years because of deployments and training and Army life,” he reminisces. “It was a challenge being a full-time student while having a full-time job, and a family with two young kids, but it was doable. And it feels great to be finishing.”
He’s also retiring from his 20-year Army career and getting ready to leave the island. And as if preparing to finish his degree and transitioning to civilian life wasn’t enough, there’s a global pandemic. One that sent his wife and children to their new home in Florida early, before the widespread lockdowns, and one that means he won’t be able to attend his newly rescheduled graduation ceremony in December. But he knows the move and the transition are the right thing to do.
“Twenty years is a long time,” says Van Beveren about his decision to retire. “But I’m still relatively young and my kids are still small right now. I’m excited to focus on them more.”
Not one to sit idle, Van Beveren already has his next step lined up. He starts a Master’s program at the University of North Florida the day his online classes end next month. He’s joining their Teacher Residency program, where he’ll work in the classroom at a high-needs school and earn his Master of Arts in Teaching at the same time.
He has his eye on the prize—not only will he have a new, rewarding career, but in a few years, he’ll have his summers off. His wife, also a teacher, will too. And for Van Beveren, the thing that matters most is getting to spend more time with his family and being there for his children.