Thursday, April 5, 2012

Peper finds examples of great teaching in Charleston

There are more than 50,000 great public school teachers in South Carolina. Highlighting each one of them with a column in one daily newspaper would take more than 137 years, but that doesn't mean we oughtn't do it from time to time.

I'm pleased to see that Post & Courier columnist Warren Peper took note of one last week, Mark Nadobny of Moultrie Middle School:

When you enter Mark Nadobny’s class at Moultrie Middle School, the number of signs and maps on the walls can be a bit overwhelming. The wall opposite the entrance shows a European map with sticky notes labeled “G,” “P,” “F,” “USSR” and “GB.” A poster directly across the room says, “Freedom isn’t free — just ask any soldier.”

Nadobny is the chair of the Social Studies department, and his passion is teaching history. His third-period class of seventh-graders starts at 9:52 a.m., and when it’s time to begin, you’d better buckle up.

The first 10 minutes of class is spent taking inventory of plastic bags various students have brought for a class project. Nadobny puts together care packages for soldiers serving overseas. As this day begins, he displays the toothpaste, candy, gum, shampoo, pencils and jelly beans some students have contributed. His lesson? During his deployments while in the Navy, there were always a couple of guys who never got anything during mail call. He wants his students to show the military serving overseas that people back here care.
Reveal and Review

For the next 10 minutes, students are asked to share any family stories pertaining to their current studies of World War II. A shy girl raises her hand to say her great-uncle was in Hawaii and saw Japanese planes approaching Pearl Harbor. Other class members mention specific moments their great-grandparents have shared with their families through the years. So far, we’re in class 20 minutes, and while no books are yet open, there’s some learning going on.

With the pacing of a game show host, Nadobny moves into what he calls “I Spy.” Using the classroom Smartboard, he begins to pepper the students with quick questions of review from the previous class. What was the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis? Why is this a propaganda poster? He moves around the room so the students stay engaged. Claire, Brandon, Stan and Griffin all come up with correct answers, and they’re immediately tossed a Dum Dum lollipop. When this session is over, the teacher has cleverly avoided calling on anybody twice, and before you know it, virtually everyone in the class has a Dum Dum and they’re clearly Not Not.
Time to take notes

The final 20 minutes of class are spent on new information. Students are then led into an interactive narrative that involves words like blitzkrieg and the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Again, Nadobny, in his seventh year at Moultrie Middle, navigates his way through the lesson plan with maps, posters, grease pencils and his computer-driven Smartboard. There’s no way anybody can sleep or disengage because he’s constantly on the move, calling on students and asking questions. They ask him, too. What does f├╝hrer mean? The answer is leader. How old was Hitler? In his 40s, during WWII.

Before class is dismissed, it’s time to watch a Disney cartoon. Before you say, “What in the name of Mickey Mouse is going on here?” the cartoon is a production the U.S. government asked the Disney Co. to make that starred Donald Duck. It’s original title was “Donald Duck in Nutzi Land.” Yet another history lesson is squeezed in just before the bell rings.

Mark Nadobny’s love of history is very clear. His passion for sharing that love with his students reveals itself every time class begins.

Before his 17-year teaching career began, he was a signalman in the Navy. Then, his job was to receive and distribute messages. Looks like some middle-schoolers in Charleston County are fortunate he’s standing watch.

I’m just sayin’...

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