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Unsung Hero: The Unmasked, Under-appreciated Unconformist

Joined: 2/1/2015
Posts: 1
In the minutiae of upper middle class suburban Long Island life, there's not much you can do to be considered particularly heroic or daring. The majority of us neither want for anything nor aspire to do much - most of us have family businesses to inherit, university legacies to uphold, or careers in medicine laid out in stone for us when we were infants. Everyday, I hear idle chatter about weekend plans, plans being made about sweet sixteens coming up, and musings about who will win which superlative. In the classrooms, hallways, and bathrooms, almost every issue being discussed is frivolous and inane; imagine the standard gossip mongering of high school students with an added layer of ignorance, fluff, and privilege lathered on top like a cherry on top of a well-to-do sundae.

In the midst of all the flippancy is my history teacher, a staunch Democrat with a penchant for playing devil’s advocate and a sense of humor acerbic enough to slice bread. Every day over the course of being in his class for two years, I have seen him try to penetrate the teenage ennui that fogs the minds of my classmates and me in attempts to make us more aware to the various injustices, brutalities, and discrimination that pervades the lives of those less fortunate than us. This is no easy task. When almost every 16-year-old in the class is more interested in planning his or her next house party than learning about police brutality, it takes the perfect blend of assertiveness, lesson planning, and The Colbert Report to pop the bubble of upper middle class privilege - something my history teacher pulls off flawlessly.

When every other teacher lectures in front of the room and blindly gives notes to the sheep assembled in front of them, my history teacher engages his students in active discussions that require them to question their ideas, upbringing, and political beliefs. It's not so much philosophy as it is brazen, hard-hitting verbal sparring that makes students re-evaluate their social priorities and goals, a unique brand of banter out from which students emerge more conscious of the world around them. Because his approach can come off as snarky at times, many students think him arrogant and condescending. They think his criticisms cold, his teaching style unprofessional, or his grading biased. He has developed a reputation as the "You either love or hate him" teacher, something unwarranted and unnecessarily polarized.

There's a reason why when the seniors slip into their blue robes and square caps every June, many who've had my history teacher cite him as the teacher who had influenced them the most in their four years of high school. People like him are truly one-of-a-kind, that rare breed of person that one only comes across a handful of instances in a lifetime. His passion and dedication incite every student he has to, at the risk of sounding cliche, become better people with greater care for social issues and broader minds.
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