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James Vescovi

A Reader's Guide to Race Relations

The riots in Ferguson, Mo., over the summer showed us that race remains a hot topic in the United States. While reading newspapers can aid our understanding of race, fiction and poetry can also shed light on this important issue. The Harlem Renaissance yielded many important works about race, and those remind us that a lot of the issues prevalent decades ago are still with us today.

Faculty Q&A with History Teacher Ian Rusten

Growing up in the artsy neighborhood of Soho, it is no surprise that Ian Rusten set his sights on a career in the arts. While he enjoyed subjects such as history and English, “I liked drawing even more,” he says. However, after teaching English in Korea after college, he caught the teaching bug and went on to earn an M.A. in Education and an M.A. in History, both at Hunter College.

“It’s funny; teaching as a career just never really occurred to me,” he says.

His students are glad that it finally did.

 

Teaching Turgenev's Novella "First Love"

Like many of us, high school students are often attracted to stories with characters going through similar struggles and life changes. I have found some success teaching Alan Sillitoe's novella The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), whose 17-year-old protagonist from a working class home, Colin Smith, has been caught burgling and is sent to a reform school. Discovering Smith’s gift for running, school officials enter him in a cross-country competition.

Faculty Q&A with Math Teacher Charlie Sitler

Ask Charlie Sitler for his favorite mathematician and he’ll be glad to tell you: Georg Cantor (1845-1918). “I crossed paths with his ideas at Fordham College. Cantor proved that there were actually different types of infinity—a veritable hierarchy of infinities, if you will. It was mind-blowing! Encountering Cantor’s theories made me want to teach math even more.  I wanted everybody to know there was so much more to math than y = mx + b.”

When did you know you wanted to teach?

Teaching Faulkner: A Snopes You Can Believe In

For me, the best way to teach William Faulkner is to begin with the Snopes, that ornery, duplicitous, barn-burning family of itinerant farmers, blacksmiths, bigamists and bank presidents.  Faulkner does not come naturally to most high school students, and he can be particularly hard to decipher for born-and-bred urbanites, too many of whom see his backwoods people as little more than players in a freak show. The key is to get students beyond a character’s eccentricities to his or her nobility.

When Students Tire of the Written Word

New Yorker essayist Joseph Mitchell once wrote, “When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile.” It is the first line in “Mr. Hunter’s Grave,” which relates Mitchell’s discovery of an old African-American burial ground still lovingly tended by a local minister. 

Beauty in Simplicity: Why I Teach Hemingway

The first beautiful thing about teaching Ernest Hemingway’s short stories is that a teacher is pretty much guaranteed that every student has read the assigned story by class time. That’s because Hemingway is so readily accessible, so seemingly simple. In fact, when I teach “Indian Camp,” the first story in the collection In Our Time, I tell students, with a straight face, that Hemingway wrote like a nine-year old.

Faculty Q&A with Math and Physics Teacher Linli Chin

Known for her hands-on teaching, Linli Chin grew up in Malaysia. While she enjoyed all subjects, from an early age she remembers the principles of chemistry, math, and physics coming easily to her. After attending college in Malaysia and at Fresno State University in California, she earned a B.S. at Baruch College with a degree in business and industrial psychology.  During college, Linli had done internships in the financial sector of the business world, but found the environment not to her liking.  “Most of the people lived to work.

No Bullying at Beekman

Sadly, bullying is on the minds of many parents and students, and why not?  Clannish and mean-spirited behavior isn’t just a product of face-to-face interaction, but also raises its ugly head in cyberspace. The anonymity of the Internet has allowed cowards to make nasty comments about students they don’t like. Recently, newspapers have reported on a 13-year-old girl who jumped to her death in Florida after being hazed and tormented by fellow students, ages 14 and 12.

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