CPLS Alumni Spotlight: Joel Keller

Today’s blog post is written by CPLS Senior Emma Nasseri.

It is a well-known Narnian proverb that once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. This is why, for many alumni, Cair Paravel will always be home.

Joel Keller became a fireman with the Topeka Fire Department after graduating from CPLS in 2005. He also has three children who currently attend CPLS. He recently came back to talk to current CPLS high school students about his experiences since graduation, on the other side of the wardrobe doors.

It may be easy to see how a Classical education would affect the life of a future philosopher or professor, but what application could Great Ideas have for a firefighter? For Joel, they are the foundation. “As a firefighter,” Joel said, “I have the opportunity to see people in their worst days.” In an environment where helping people can be messy and dangerous and sometimes unsuccessful, it is easy to have a cynical outlook on life and humanity. At a certain point in his career, Joel saw that this cynicism had begun to influence his worldview, and he began to revisit truths that he remembered studying in Cair Paravel’s Great Ideas course. The key, Joel said, is that “you have to look at how you’ve been created.” An understanding of the inherent worth of each individual as the Image of God is crucial to living and serving well. “Because I see the value in my life, I see the value in other people’s lives.” For Joel, being reminded of the truth about who he is drastically changed the way he has loved and served people.

Beginning in his years at Cair Paravel, mentorship has been a significant part of Joel’s life. He credits part of this to the way that the teachers and coaches invested in his education as well as his character. In a K through 12 school, faculty members are able to be involved in students’ lives from the first day of Kindergarten to their high school graduation. For Joel, one of the best parts of a CPLS education was learning how to build relationships the right way. He has recently been able to apply this knowledge by working with the Topeka Fire Department to develop curriculum to equip firemen to grow in character and leadership skills. In this way, classes like Great Ideas have prepared him to have a significant, positive impact on his community.

When asked if he wished CPLS had offered more conventional, practical career-prep classes, Joel said he was grateful for the breadth of classical education, because, “CPLS teaches you to think.” Great Ideas especially gave him a longing to learn and push himself. For him, learning how to learn well has been a significant part of his life, with applications to his roles as a father, husband, and firefighter.

 Cair Paravel has seen lots of growth and renovations from Joel’s years to the present, when three of his children are now students. But no matter what else may change, the kings and queens of Narnia can always call Cair Paravel their home.