There’s a miniature museum here in Northwest Indiana. It’s not open to the public, but it does occasionally have private tours, lead by Patrick Cudzilo, an aspiring teacher, a history buff, and a model train enthusiast from Hammond, Indiana.
A corner of his basement is a tribute to the Coke Company. Coke bottles, ornaments, and signs hang down from the wall and ceiling making that entire corner of the room shine red. On a shelf, right next to his workspace, is a small sign saying “Warning: Lead.” Small lead soldiers protect the shelf from behind the sign, items from WWII that are just a snippet of what you can find in his basement museum.
“My favorite collector's item,” he said, “is my 1918 Third Liberty Loan Campaign Poster. The image in the poster brings together my collection of Boy Scout items and World War One collection.”
The poster features a Boy Scout handing the Statue of Liberty a sword.
“My basement is like a mix between a museum and a man cave,” he joked. “Most museums don’t have a couch.”
Cudzilo graduated from Morton High School in 2010. He started thinking about being a teacher in middle school and honed into teaching high school social studies because of influence from his social studies teachers at Morton. He wrapped up a bachelor’s ins secondary education at Purdue University Northwest in December and hopes to be licensed to teach in Indiana soon.
“The best thing about being a teacher is being able to reach my students and inspire them to have an interest in history,” he said. “I like when they ask more questions, as it shows they’re excited about the material as much as I am.”
He’s only just started the journey to becoming a great Northwest Indiana teacher, but he has big goals for his future.
“Right now, every day is about learning new ways to keep students engaged and helping them retain the information,” he said.
So far, he’s doing well. He loved working directly with the students for his student teaching position, and received great feedback on his training.
“I had a student who was really struggling in school. He was even doing evening classes to catch up to the other students in his grade,” Cudzilo explained. “He came to me after receiving marks for spelling and grammar on a paper, but the content had been great. I told him that, and he started to work even harder in my class after the encouragement, and ended with a good grade. That was inspiring.”
Cudzilo really does enjoy history outside of his teaching goals. He owns a large model train and spares no detail. Tiny street lamps are really wired to light up, which he did himself. Every part somehow moves, lights up, or comes alive when he turns on the table. And, for a festive flare, tiny wreaths are installed onto the tiny street lamps during Christmas season.
The table has a courthouse square very similar to the one in Crown Point, and the Northwest Indiana aesthetic is the inspiration for the town replicated on his table.
He’s began building on the table in 2009, which then sparked an interest in model trains. It has come a long way, and he hopes to expand the table even further some day.
Patrick Cudzilo is one to watch for as a teacher in Northwest, Indiana. Hammond prepared him, Purdue University trained him, and it’s inside a Northwest Indiana school where he’ll call home.