By ANA-SOFIA MUÑOZ
Why did you first take an interest in teaching social science?
“[Social science] is a very eclectic discipline. I think the fascinating thing about it is that [a person] can learn virtually anything they want. [The subject includes] so many different things that you can study and that is what I find so attractive about [social science].”
Why do you think it is important for students to learn history?
“We are all participants in [history]. There are many valuable lessons that [everyone] can learn from history, even on a personal level. History can teach us about what we have done in the past and how it shapes who we are in the present, and [can also offer] a guide for the future. Students have [a lot] to gain from being immersed in the social science discipline.”
What is your favorite time period or historical moment to teach?
“I am fascinated by World War I because society was so different before the war as compared to after. [The war] led many to evaluate every [element] of life. Everything was reassessed and [world leaders] tried to put the world back together, but they did it in a different way, which is [very interesting].”
What is your favorite activity to do outside of school?
“I [am a] musician at heart, and I have a drum set at home. My kids are learning [how to] play the piano and my daughter is a little bit older, so I [like to] sit down and [practice with her] when [I have the chance]. I also like gardening, woodwork, and going out with friends.”
If you could meet any celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I find him to be a brilliant speaker. Another [figure] would be Abraham Lincoln. I would love to [listen to his wisdom first-hand, especially] after having read a variety of his works. I am fascinated by the way he employs language and makes [such] compelling arguments.”
What motivates you to continue teaching?
“[My love] for the students. I like [many aspects of my work environment], but more than anything else, I like the students I work with.”
What do you think is the most important thing you have learned over the course of your career?
“Patience and endurance, [especially] while working with students.”
What do you hope students will take away from your class?
“[I hope that] they learn something. I do not know if they learn everything, but if they learn [even] a little bit, I will be happy.”
Which life accomplishment are you most proud of?
“Graduating from university.”
Which piece of art (book, movie, song, etc.) has influenced you the most as a person?
“The Notebook. It makes me cry.”
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
“My favorite part of being a teacher is being able to work with the youth. I love being around teenagers and seeing them develop into young adults, and [having] a part in that development [as they] become quality citizens.”
In what ways do you feel you learn from your students?
“I learn from my students everyday, not only about culture, society and different backgrounds, but also [about] [changes] in styles of music, dress and language. I learn a lot from interacting with students from all walks of life and [different] family structures.”
Why did you decide to teach social science?
“My father is a history professor, and my mom and sister are both educators as well. I [personally] did not think I would go into education [initially]. It was something I really tried to avoid at all costs, but [education] [became] something I really saw stability in. [Being a teacher] was a way that I could change lives, influence others and make an impact on society.”
If you could go back to any time in your life, when would it be?
“[College]. My college life was fun. I held up two jobs and went to school, but I had time for my fraternity and athletics. I enjoyed the balance of learning and taking classes that I enjoyed. [Those days] were busy, but a lot of fun, and it was [definitely] a period of growth and learning.”
What is the best advice that you have received?
“[My mom told me] that you always want to be able to wake up, look in the mirror and know that you are trying to do what is best for [yourself], your family and your friends, and to live your life the proper way. Take what you perceive as being the right path and [remember] the idea of [always] getting up when you are knocked down.”
Claudia Van Gorden
What do you enjoy about teaching psychology?
“[Psychology] is a living subject and kids can use what they learn in class in their everyday lives. We all use psychology, [most] just do not know to label it as psychology.”
How has being a teacher improved your life?
“The connections that I have made [not just with the students,] but also with other staff members, have improved my life. I [also] think that teaching psychology in particular makes you a better person, because you know why you do [certain things] and tend to address [issues] more readily.”
What inspires you to improve as a teacher?
“New curriculum, and making sure that [students] are being given information that is updated and pertinent, particularly my AP students. For example, this year I was given these classes on child development, and it is a whole different topic. I have had to do a lot of investigation and work in the background to get the class up and ready to go.”
What was your favorite cartoon/television show growing up?
“American Bandstand, because I love music and like to dance. That was probably one of my [favorite shows.].”
If you could be a master of any skill without having to practice, what would you choose?
“I love to decorate, so interior design. That was actually what I wanted to do back in high school. Now, I just practice at home and do my own thing.”
What do you feel is your greatest strength as a teacher?
“Experience. When you are a beginning teacher, you are [always] learning [through] your mistakes and making note of what you will do differently next year. This is my nineteenth year [as a teacher], so all of my years of experience are probably my greatest resource.”
What do you find most rewarding about being a teacher?
“Being around [the students]. Sometimes [being a teacher] can be [a bit] exhausting with paperwork, grading and meetings, but being around all of the students keeps [the job] fun and [can] remind [teachers] why we are here in the first place.”
How do you try to inspire your students?
“I try to make [the students] see why what I am teaching them matters. [The subjects I teach] will definitely impact them in their lives, so I try to make them care now, so they will care about it later, too.”
What is one thing you can not live without?
“My family and friends.”
What is your favorite season and why?
“I am a summer person, for sure. I love being tan, and the warm weather. [In the winter], I am just counting down the weeks until we get back to warm weather again.”
Some teachers within the Social Science Department were unable to comment.