Kelsie Brook Eckert ’13G was 10 when her dad died suddenly. A beloved high school math teacher, he was lauded at a packed memorial service about the many ways in which he transformed students’ lives.
“When students were having a hard time, he threw the curriculum out for the day to meet their needs as human beings,” Eckert says. “I cherish that legacy.”
Now, only two years into her role as Plymouth State’s coordinator for social studies education, Eckert is building a legacy of her own. Says Haydn Huard ’23, “She has done more than just enhance my education. She is one of the most ambitious people you’ve ever met. She is effective in everything. Having her as a mentor inspires us to push ourselves.”
Eckert is constantly pushing herself as well. Inspired by the eagerness of her students and the critical need to support teachers to build an educated citizenry, she is a champion for social studies education, which encompasses US history, world history, geography, economics, government, and behavioral sciences. She believes it should be taught from kindergarten through high school graduation, rather than be relegated to middle school, as it too often is.
“It’s about getting kids to think so they can be engaged citizens,” she says.
On campus, Eckert works to raise awareness about the program and keep standards high, and more students are choosing the major as a result. Statewide, she leads the Remedial Herstory Project, a nonprofit with a mission to get women’s history into primary and secondary curriculum, and she involves PSU students in the effort.
Eckert is a New Hampshire Council for Social Studies board member and previously served as its president, and she is frequently featured in the media, offering insights on teaching critical social topics from Black history to 9/11 to women in history. In March 2022, Eckert served as a panelist on the NHPR and NH Civics program. Her numerous awards include being named the NH Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year in 2020. Most recently, Eckert received a grant from the Library of Congress that will allow her to develop lesson plans on women’s history, and she intends to involve PSU student interns in the process.
Although Eckert was inspired by her father early on and spent her childhood “playing teacher,” her trajectory back to the classroom was indirect. After earning her bachelor’s in political science, she spent a year coaching collegiate lacrosse in Colorado, then worked at a museum in development. She enrolled at Plymouth State for a master’s degree in social studies education after teaching at an outdoor center affirmed her joy in the role.
Eckert taught high school social studies for eight years before joining PSU. Students are in her office constantly for advice and direction—or to tell her a good joke. “I support students where they’re at, and I provide a link to intellectualism and academia to keep them learning,” she says. “I love how responsive, engaged, and excited they are.”
Her student of two years, Huard, says “She implements what she wants to see us do in the field in the classroom and will change her teaching style to fit the students’ needs, which is a lot harder than it sounds. She is also very open to feedback and sees failure as a learning curve.”
Eckert and her husband, Jeff, have two young sons. She loves living in the White Mountains and appreciates Plymouth State and its “kind, approachable faculty,” vision, collaborative approach, and affordability. Her two sisters, mother, and husband are fellow alumni.
Outside of work, Eckert excels as an athlete. She will compete in her fourth Iron Man competition next summer and is a member of the Granite State Endurance Project triathlon team.
Before Eckert’s father headed out of the family home to teach each day, he’d say, “I’m off to the show.” The show goes on, starring Eckert’s highly motivated students, who will be well prepared to make their marks on the education stage.