By Lynn Palacios,
Barry Goldwater High School
For many of us, high school history classes involved memorizing names and dates, regurgitating them on a test, replacing them in our brains with new names and dates, and repeating the process over again, chapter by chapter. Our lasting memories of these classes may have been more about the characters we had as instructors, the coaches who only talked about the game, or perhaps a particularly engaging battle we saw depicted in a film clip.
History classrooms have changed on many campuses around the country, and this is certainly the case at Barry Goldwater High School (BGHS). The faculty in the BGHS Social Studies Department is dedicated to helping students develop the skills necessary to think critically, make well-informed decisions, and participate meaningfully in the world around them. A diverse, highly educated, dedicated, and caring team, these teachers are helping students recognize the importance of understanding history in order to have a positive impact on the present and future.
Michele Savoia, Social Studies Department Coordinator, has taught at BGHS for 32 years. Besides teaching World History, she also teaches Psychology. “History is not about memorizing dates and facts,” she says. “It’s about teaching critical thinking and communication skills to help [students] successfully navigate as adults.” Savoia sees her role as interwoven with the community. She feels that, as an instructor, she is an extension of families and the community, and is working to help students build the skills they need to give back to their communities in a constructive way. Even the campus clubs Savoia sponsors, Interact and the Knitting Club, are focused on community service projects and giving back.
Trevor Jacklin, another veteran member of the social studies faculty, has taught and coached at BGHS since 1992. He was inspired to become a teacher because of a program in which he participated when he was a student, where juniors and seniors in his high school spent a week teaching sixth graders. Jacklin assists with BGHS’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and teaches history classes within the program (20th Century World History and History of the Americas), classes he believes provide students access to concepts and lessons that make them better readers, writers, thinkers, and citizens. He also teaches Law in Society, which Jacklin says has practical applications for students as they learn more about their rights and responsibilities in society.
Ashlee Harper has been at BGHS for two years but taught at Deer Valley Middle School for three years before making the move. She enjoys seeing students she met at DVMS as high schoolers. Harper is very passionate about teaching World History and hopes she can help students recognize its importance in their lives. As part of her role, she believes teaching her students critical thinking, decision making, judgment, and analysis will help them be more successful in the future. Harper feels that it’s really about helping students make connections, “Understanding what has happened in the past is essential to understanding who we are…essential to decision making in the present and future.”