Teacher of the Year

The following article if from the Jume 2012 issue of State College Magazine by Caitlyn Kronket and Noelle Mateer.

Dave Anderson is the pope. Well, not exactly. He and a student are reading lines from a scripted dialog in front of the class. Anderson gets into it, but his student portraying St. Julius outdoes him with a British accent. Giggles erupt from the desks around them.

“Funny things happen in classrooms,” says Anderson, or, as the students call him, Dave. In his seven years as a religious history teacher at Grace Prep High School, he has been the subject of several student pranks.

“I’ve been duct-taped to a pole,” he says with a smile.

Anderson makes joking and interacting with students a priority, and so his students joke and interact back with him.

For example, a sea of hands shoots up when he asks a question about today’s readings—taken from the works of St. Ignatius of Loyola and John Calvin—for his religious history class. It’s tough stuff for a high schooler, but Anderson has strategies that make it work.

First, he provides students with a list of the most crucial historical terms on their class website, rather than overwhelming them. He calls this “fresh-squeezed history.”

Then, he focuses on continually revisiting previously covered material, so that his lessons build on each other. When it comes to important vocabulary, students memorize a set of five terms, then add five more words to make a set of 10 for the next text, then later 15, then 20…

“By coming back over and over again, students say ‘Dave, I still remember that,’” he says. His strategy makes the all-too-common phenomenon of forgetting information after a history test, well, history.

All this in no way means that Anderson’s classes focus solely on memorization. Rather, apart from the role-playing segment, today’s class is completely discussion-based.

That’s because Anderson’s goal is larger than simply preparing his students for college. It’s also larger than arming students with cultural, historical literacy. For him, the most important aspect of history is its ability to teach us. And that’s why today’s discussion is so important. The readings from the Reformation touch on themes of conflict between and within religious communities, something Christian-based Grace Prep students will undoubtedly face at some point in their lives.

But ultimately, Anderson wins over students with his open personality, approachability and great sense of humor. As he walks through the hallways of Grace Prep’s school building, students say hi, joke with him and ask questions.

“What I’ve found most important to my teaching is relating to my students,” he says.

Even when that means letting them duct-tape him to a pole.

Changing Education Paradigms

Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. It’s a message with deep resonance. Robinson’s TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? “Everyone should watch this.”

Grace Prep Presents “The Race To Nowhere”

On April 24, 2012 Grep Prep High School sponsored a public showing of Race to Nowhere at the State Theatre in State College, PA.  Race to Nowhere is a documentary that points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace; students have become disengaged; stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

NMSP

Grace Prep Students Receive National Merit Scholarship Accolades

Grace Prep, a small, innovative Christian school of 65 students in State College has two students who have received recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

 

Anna Moyer, 2011, is among the nation’s 15,500 National Merit Scholarship finalists. This honor is based on scores from the 2009 PSAT/NMSQT,  academic records, an application essay, and recommendations by mentors and teachers.
Anna, daughter of Steve and Deb Moyer of Boalsburg, received the National Merit University of Alabama Scholarship, one of the 8,200 National Merit corporate and college-sponsored scholarships given that spring. She attends the University of Alabama, pursuing a degree in the sciences. For her senior project Anna created a resource website (www.yourspecialchef.com) for life skills teachers and parent of special needs children that include over twenty adapted picture recipes.

Zach Donnor was one of the 34,000 commended students in the National Merit Program, scoring among the top 5 percent of students who took the 2009 PSAT/NMSQT. Zach attends Hillsdale College pursuing a degree in the sciences.   Zach is the son of Gary and Sallie Donner of Tyrone. For his senior project Zach researched the worldviews and faiths of the various Founding Fathers of the United States.

Grace Prep Alumni Spotlight: Where are they now?

Remember these three smiling faces? Four years ago, Salim George, Drew Davidson, and Robby Gresh were accepted into  Schreyer Honors College of Pennsylvania State University–A school that has been compared to Harvard, Yale and Princeton offering 241 honors courses to only 300 incoming freshmen per year. They have come a long way in four years. Salim is currently working with the World in Conversation Project and is pursuing a degree in Philosophy. Drew will soon graduate with a double major in World Language Education and Spanish. He will soon enter the classroom as a Spanish teacher. Robby will also graduate in May with a B.S. in Engineering Science. Next year, he will be teaching at  Penn State while pursuing his M.S. in Engineering Science.