An Interview With...
Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Retired
What is your current occupation?
I have taught social studies for 32 years. I have been retired now for two years but have many interests in helping new teachers make learning come alive in meaningful ways for their learners. I have spent the last two years supervising teacher interns at Russell Sage and St. Rose. In addition, I work as a consultant part time at the National Evaluation System (NES) helping evaluating teacher certification tests.
When did your interest in social studies and history begin? Did you have any particularly memorable teachers who inspired you?
My interest in history began with a wonderful young lady teacher Ms. Ashley (Massena, NY, Jr. High School). She was so enthusiastic and made social studies memorable and enjoyable. Another great teacher was my 11th Grade Social Studies, Mr. Hayes. We always called him Rutherford after the Pres. Hayes. He made a big impression on a lot of students by bringing "history to life." He was very approachable and very knowledgeable..... a great "role model for young minds."
I must include in this classic list Mr. John Deans my Political Science teacher (Jefferson Community College, Watertown, NY) for two semesters. I still try to keep in touch with him. He challenged us with our political thought and insight. He set high expectations for all of us to aspire. His debates and discussions were always "lively" that motivated us to participate. After graduating from Jr. College I was leaning toward government work. I volunteered for several Senatorial campaigns and like many during those turbulent years was very active in the political scene.
What subjects most prepared you for your career?
Entering, Oswego State University, I continued to grow and develop my political thought. But, I was always interested in teaching history. I graduated, and like many, I criss-crossed New York state looking and interviewing for a social studies position. I especially enjoyed my teacher internship at a very progressive Liverpool High School. I went back and got my elementary credentials only to find a sixth grade social studies job at Tamarac Middle School, near Troy, NY.
What inspired you to get involved in international exchanges such as the Hands Across the World project?
Social Studies always has been given a bad rap by many as dry and uninteresting. My goal was to "make learning come alive". I was an advocate for more active and discovery learning. For 29 years, I organized an integrated sixth grade "Festival of Nations". Those plans can be found at Education World.
For many years we used resource books and magazines until I found a great "eye opening" device: the Internet. With the help of a teacher from England, I set up my own web page with many creative interactive games. I wanted to do something inspiring and challenging for my class and we exchanged "friendship pins" with several international schools. In future years, I developed a "culture box", with 20 items collected from students, to share American culture with like children in the Netherlands and France.
In my last year, my favorite project of all time was "Hands Across the World". It was really the use of the Internet that made social studies a powerful subject that could be taught in a whole new dimension. The Internet has opened the doors for educators and children to help tear down prejudice and walls of hatred, and has made the world smaller. Now, with a click of a mouse, I can be connected with a teacher in Japan, China, Australia, India, Kenya, Poland Austria, England, Sweden, etc. My students have made new friends, not for a day, but for a lifetime and social studies has grown in its popularity through Internet projects and creative teaching.
I used to remember my grandfather, an immigrant from Sweden, listening to his short wave radio each evening. Now the Internet can make students aware of life and culture in a whole new exciting way.
I chose "handprints" because no two handprints are alike anywhere on earth. Drawing symbols of each country's culture was an exciting way to "visualize" important areas of culture for all of the students.
What are your plans for the future?
Now retired, I hope to someday travel and have a cup of coffee with the several teachers I worked with on this wonderful and memorable project. I am not ready for the "rocking chair" yet.... I hope to inspire educators to bring social studies with a new insight... new vigor.... new vitality that makes the students take a new look at the world around them.
- 6 November 2005
8 January 2015
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