ARGENTA — Dustin Krause's classroom is so full for his twice-weekly “Learn to Win” class that there aren't enough desks to go around. Some students have to bring chairs.
“We might have to give him a bigger classroom,” joked Sean German, Argenta-Oreana High School principal.
Krause, a middle-school physical education teacher and a high school football coach, offers his class before school officially begins on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students don't sign up for it or receive credit. It's entirely voluntary.
Krause doesn't get paid for it, either. But it's something he feels very strongly about: motivating students to strive for their best and inspiring them to try.
Each class ends with students lined up to fist-bump Krause on their way out, as he wishes them each an “awesome” day.
“Steven (Spielberg) was rejected from the University of Southern California three times,” Krause said in a recent class, while a photo of the director as a young man was displayed on a screen at the front of the room, “and he basically dropped out of college, yet we've all seen 'Jaws' and 'Jurassic Park' and many of the other movies he's created.”
The Beatles, arguably the most famous band ever, were rejected by every record label manager Brian Epstein approached, until tiny Parlophone agreed to give them a chance. Nobody thought they'd make it because “guitar groups” were out of fashion.
“Abraham failed at everything,” Krause said. “Business. Elections. But eventually, President Lincoln got a few things right.”
These examples, Krause told the students, who were absolutely silent and attentive as he talked, prove the value of perseverance in the face of setbacks.
“The rough side of the mountain actually prepares you for incredible destinations,” he said. “I don't know what you're struggling with and I don't know what cards you've been dealt. And I'm not saying the cards you've been dealt are fair. But we all have a choice.
"Those dents, those bruises, those cuts and scrapes that wear and tear can either be a part of your excuse or your story.”
Krause said he hopes the class will be offered for credit next school year, and he is working on a curriculum. In the meantime, he looks for topics and material wherever he can. His purpose is to help students find and develop inner strength.
Many of the students in the class are the athletes he coaches, who say Krause doesn't only inspire them in the classroom.
“He's been talking about it for a long time, and he's given me books from authors he said inspired him, so it made me want to come even more, because I support him as my coach and he's a leader who has a big impact on my life,” said Christian Barber, a sophomore who plays baseball and football.
“He does such a great job, that's why I came,” said Garett Morrison, a senior. “He's really helped motivate me and he's given me great books to read and talked to me outside of class. I've seen a change in myself already.”
One of the books Krause recommends is “Chop Wood, Carry Water” by Joshua Medcalf, who will speak to the class March 8.
“This is the class that I wish I would have had when I was in high school, and that's really the place it was birthed out of,” Krause said. “It's all the wisdom I've learned since high school and all the lessons I've had to learn the really hard way that I want them to learn in a little easier way.
"What we're trying to do is teach them how to think differently, how to win off the field, and if we do that, things are going to be better on the field. That's just icing on the cake.”