When Kevan Ottochian was eight years old, he was diagnosed with a near-fatal case of Kawasaki disease, a syndrome that affects the heart and blood vessels. The experience was life-changing.
“That shaped my outlook for the rest of my life,” Kevan says. “Every day, live life to the fullest, and don’t take it for granted.” This mantra has helped bring clarity to his plans for the future. “I knew my life would be fulfilled by being a history teacher,” he says. “Nearly a decade and a half later, I am still as passionate as ever, inspiring students.”
Kevan’s interest in education was inspired by his parents—an elementary school teacher and an art teacher—and his grandfather, who wished to become a teacher but whose career was redirected by military service and the demands of a family construction business.
Today, as a history teacher at Warwick Valley High School, one of Kevan’s favorite aspects of his job is the element of unpredictability, despite the detailed day-to-day lesson plans he prepares for his classes. He encourages students to share their opinions and insights and, in discussions about current events, he challenges them to think critically, something he learned at his alma mater.
“St. Thomas Aquinas College’s motto—‘to enlighten the mind through truth’—has driven how I teach,” Kevan says. “It’s important to be open and honest with students to build trust with them in order to achieve academic and non-academic objectives. STAC professors did that for me and I carry that legacy on.”
As a student, Kevan joined the WTSK radio station, served on STAC’s student government, and took part in campus ministry. He also founded the bowling club, which is now a Division II sport at the college. He graduated magna cum laude and credits many professors for their positive influence on his education, including history and education professors Dr. Neerja Chaturvedi and Dr. Helene Robbins.
Kevan’s leadership and excellence as an educator earned him a spot in the STAC Alumni Hall of Fame, and an invitation to join the college’s Social Justice and Equity Forum. Currently, he sits on the School of Education Advisory Board, where he connects with other professionals and provides teacher candidates with field experience.
After graduating, Kevan began teaching and also earned a master’s in instructional technology at the New York Institute of Technology. He regularly participates in speaking engagements and workshops, including the New York State Council for Social Studies, where he serves as part of the communications committee. For the National Constitution Center’s Teacher Advisory Council, Kevan convenes with teachers across the nation to brainstorm new ways to enhance history education.
In the next five years, Kevan hopes to become a James Madison Fellow. The program, America’s most prestigious award in constitutional history for secondary teachers, provides support for graduate study on the Constitution and its relevance in the classroom. Two colleagues recently nominated him as a candidate for the award.
In his own community, Kevan is a board member of the Rumshock Veterans Foundation and a governing Elder for the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen. At home, he enjoys cooking and rooting for his favorite sports teams, the New York Giants, Rangers, and Yankees.