PARKSTON — Every school year, Tony Kinneberg has only 18 weeks to teach 500 years’ worth of world history.
Although that is not exactly an easy task, it is something he’s been doing as part of his 27 years in teaching, starting in Ethan from 1992 to 2000 and since then at the Parkston School District, where he teaches world history, several media classes and serves as the technical coordinator for the district.
That dedication to history and his contributions to classroom patriotism earned him the South Dakota VFW Teacher of the Year Award for grades 9-12 recently, and makes him eligible for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the national level. That award, established in 1999, recognizes the nation’s top teachers for their exceptional commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students by promoting civic responsibility, flat etiquette and patriotism in the classroom, according to the national VFW website.
Kinneberg wears many hats at Parkston, including that of world history teacher, where he said he tries to bridge a connection between history and current events by giving perspective on the people and state of the world at the time.
“I try to present it as a series of stories, which is what it is. It’s people’s stories. I try to present it that way, and the students respond to that well,” Kinneberg said in a recent interview with the Daily Republic. “You get down to the personal aspects and give a little insight into what life was like for people back then.”
He said the subject can be a challenge given the sheer volume of information he needs to convey to give a well-rounded experience in the classroom.
“Unfortunately, I only have (the students) for 18 weeks, so you have to pick and choose what you think are the important events. So you basically start with the Renaissance and parts of World War II and hopefully your other classes like American History will cover some of the other events,” Kinneberg said. “Eighteen weeks isn’t that long when you start talking about 500 years of history, but the goal is to give them an interest and want to learn more.”
He also serves as the technical coordinator for the district, maintaining the district fleet of computers and other equipment. Using that skill, Kinneberg helped bring the Parkston School District to the forefront of streaming events. Since 2009, Kinneberg has helped bring school sporting events, music concerts and even graduation to viewers around the state. It’s helped far-flung families keep in contact with Parkston activities, even if they’re hundreds of miles away.
They also assist with audio for VFW programs and events, but one type of broadcast is of particular importance to him, he said.
“When our National Guard unit was over in Iraq or Kuwait, we set it up so if there were parents in the unit who had kids graduating, we would do some live feeds with them, or they would send us their short videos and then we’d make sure they were presented during the event,” Kinneberg said. “It helped them feel like they were part of it. It meant a lot to them.”
That effort is just one of the reasons Barbara McKean, post commander for the VFW Post 3298 in Parkston, said Kinneberg was an excellent choice for his recent honors and his candidacy for the national award.
“We believe Tony is a great candidate because he does so much for everyone else,” McKean said. "He went above and beyond in assisting a family to connect with their deployed dad so they could see each other on graduation day. In addition to that, Tony assists students with the audio recordings for submissions of their VFW Voice of Democracy essays.
"He also videos and assists with all audio for our military events held at the school. Tony is sincerely a kind, generous, giving individual and we are truly blessed to have him in our school and the community of Parkston.”
Kinneberg gives credit to his fellow teachers, both at Parkston and around the state, as a source of inspiration to him. His wife, Jayne, has helped him tirelessly through the years as he works with students and plays father to his own kids from high school age to college graduate. He also acknowledges the impact his students have had on him and the satisfaction that comes with helping guide another generation of youth to the next phase of their educational experience.
Professional recognition is nice, he said, but knowing he makes a difference in the lives of his students is what keeps him excited about another year of world history.
“The joy of teaching is when the students leave and then come back and tell you how much they appreciate you and the nice things they say,” Kinneberg said. “The most rewarding thing is watching the students, and seeing what they’ve become, and knowing you’ve had a little influence on that.”