The teachers I wanted to highlight this week are Mr. Robert Censabella and Mr. Peter Hoogerzeil. While a brief glimpse of either class will tell you that students are engaged through exercises such as Socratic Seminars, Harkness Discussions, group work, problem solving, and analysis of primary resources, you would need to spend much more time to see the amount of work both of these individuals put into improving their craft.
Mr. Censabella, traditionally known for his ability to impersonate Daniel Shays, instructs two Advanced Placement History classes as well as United States History I (covering the early years of our nation until the period after the American Civil War known as Reconstruction). Students in Mr. Censabella’s classes are exposed to primary resources, issues in America’s past, and sound academic skills as they gain a greater understanding of the subject by meeting a high set of expectations through hard work, higher level thinking, and support.
Mr. Hoogerzeil also teaches United States History I (mainly the honors level), but also instructs the Contemporary Issues and History of Rock Classes. Mr. Hoogerzeil is also an instructor in the Ontrack Program. This is an alternative program that helps students who, for multiple reasons, struggle with the traditional model of school. Mr. Hoogerzeil is also the advisor for Jam Club and the Audio Visual Club here at Seekonk High School. He works to instill a strong sense of responsibility and work ethic in all students at all levels in an effort to increase their ability to succeed not just as they move through high school, but once they graduate as well.
Both Mr. Censabella and Mr. Hoogerzeil are now participating in an international study comprised of three nations (Spain, Columbia, and the United States) that will explore how history texts represent critical moments of collective violence (Westward Expansion and Conflicts with Native Populations (1812-1860), the Civil War Period (1861-1865), and the War on Terrorism (2001-Present Day) in their respective nations and how teachers in different cultural settings understand and teach about these narratives in their own classrooms. Specifically, Mr. Censabella and Mr. Hoogerzeil will be interviewed, take part in a focus group, and possibly participate in an international symposium to discuss the findings from this research and its implications for the teaching and learning of history.
Research in the United States will be led by Dr. Alan Stoskopf, a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his summary, he explains that the research aims to provide a more authentic representation of what occurs with real teachers in real classrooms when they teach about difficult topics in diverse cultural contexts. This in turn will contribute to both international scholarship and wise practices in the field of history education.
Both Mr. Censabella and Mr. Hoogerzeil should be commended for their efforts to continually improve their craft by participating in opportunities such as this so that their field becomes better understood by both those who teach and wish to learn.