Each week Patch sits down with individuals who contribute to the high standards of education in Mahwah, and asks them a few questions to get to know them better.
This week Patch talks to Social Studies teacher, Andrew Beutel, about the lengthy contract negotiation and its affects.
How long have you been a teacher in Mahwah? What classes do you teach?
AB: “This is my fifth year teaching in Mahwah. I teach four seventh grade social studies classes and one seventh grade service learning class.”
Why is Social Studies so important?
AB: “I think social studies is important because it prepares students for citizenship. It allows them to understand how the past influences the present and how events in the world connect to their lives. It also teaches students the skills necessary for future employment and civic engagement in the 21st century such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. In middle school social studies, students learn about other cultures, debate different topics and ideas, and really begin to form their own unique opinions about the world.”
How do you engage your students to keep them interested and focused?
AB: “In order to keep my students engaged I try to make history enjoyable and interesting. I dispel the myth that history is about memorization of dates and instead have students discuss and analyze interesting people and events from the past. I also employ cooperative learning strategies to encourage students to interact with one another and try to vary the style of instruction and the activities. I encourage students to demonstrate their understanding of information while also displaying their creativity. For example, I have students write poems and songs, draw illustrations, and perform skits related to the content they learn. I also utilize the technology in the school through videos, internet-based research projects, and other activities like blogging and digital tours of the world. The investment in technology by the school district and the Mahwah Schools Foundation has really allowed me to make history much more relevant and approachable for the students.”
What's the most unconventional teaching method you've used and was it successful?
AB: “I believe that the more positive energy I bring to the classroom the more engaged the students become. So I do all sorts of things like high fiving, juggling chalk, rhythmic snapping and clapping and even coming up with chants about social studies. I have found that all of these things help me to develop a positive rapport with students and allow them to feel more comfortable in the classroom.”
What's the one lesson you hope your students take away from this class?
AB: “The most important lesson I hope students take from my class is learning to ask more questions and think more about the world around them. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I also want my students to leave class with an increased appreciation for and enjoyment of social studies.”
Has the lengthy contract negotiation process caused you great frustration and why?
AB: “I am one of the many dedicated, hard-working Mahwah teachers who care deeply about the children of this community. Although it is frustrating that we have not had a new contract in nearly two years, it has never distracted me from maintaining the highest level of instruction I can possibly provide to my students. I think everyone in the Mahwah school community hopes a fair settlement can be reached soon.”
What can parents/students do to help resolve this situation?
AB: “Public education has historically been most effective when teachers, administrators, and parents are all working together. I would encourage all members of the Mahwah community to learn as much as they can about the issues.”
What's one thing people may not know about you?
AB: “Outside of school, I really enjoy running and recently completed my first marathon.”