The Human Condition in the Classroom: Humanities Teachers of the Year, 2010 and 2009

Aired: November 28, 2010

From amateur archaeology digs to Shakespearean sonnets, New Jersey’s public school teachers are bringing their classrooms to life. Every year, NJCH honors the most dedicated and creative educators with its Humanities Teacher of the Year Award. In this episode of Humanities Connection, host Bob Mann talks to Jeanne DelColle, the 2010 Humanities Teacher of the Year and a world history teacher at Burlington County Institute of Technology, and Greg Woodruff, the 2009 Humanities Teacher of the Year and English teacher at Montclair High School, about what it was like to be named Humanities Teacher of the Year, the necessity of the humanities in education, especially in moments of economic difficulty and the vocational school of the future.

In today’s current economic climate, public education is often equated with job training. Award-winning humanities teachers, Greg Woodruff and Jeanne DelColle, consider the role of the humanities, particularly literature and history, in training young people to think critically, broadly and interdisciplinarily—exactly the skills needed in today’s global job market. DelColle counters the image of the vocational school as insufficiently academically rigorous, arguing that the combination of skills and knowledge makes her school, and others like it, “the beginning of the future.”

Living in a yurt in Mongolia is not typical for the Humanities Teacher of the Year, but that’s where DelColle was when she received word, via Facebook, that she had been selected. Since teachers often aren’t recognized for the work they do in the classroom, DelColle and Woodruff discuss how rewarding it was to be both nominated by their administrators and chosen from teachers around the state for the NJCH Humanities Teacher of the Year Award.

Jeanne DelColle’s students call her the female Indiana Jones for her deep interest in archaeology and world travel. DelColle explores how her experiences on archaeological digs in the Middle East and Asia have positively impacted her student’s education, as she supplements their textbooks with her firsthand stories and knowledge gained from interacting with people in those cultures.


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