Teachers go beyond the curriculum to help their students

Though many teachers have limited their lessons strictly to the designated curriculum, some teachers have expanded their classes’ learning experience beyond the information in textbooks. Teachers may choose include unconventional subjects in their lessons because they find them engaging for students, while others must teach certain subject because it is simply a touchy part of the curriculum and some add to their lessons because it enhances students’ learning and understanding of the subject.

Biology and anatomy teacher Deborah Swantek presents her lessons with both a sense of humor and of ‘matter-of-factness’. As a teacher of life sciences, Swantek is obligated to teach her students about some topics that many may find uncomfortable.

Swantek believes that awkward lessons taught during life sciences classes are some of the most valuable a student can learn.

“School creates a very comfortable, open environment for these discussions, and I try to present my lessons in a joking way to make kids more comfortable,” Swantek said. “For example, I joke with my students that the only difference in skin color is the level of melanin and is ‘only skin deep.’”

Biology and Oceans and Geosystems teacher Michele Gates also shares the belief that life sciences topics must be explicitly taught to students.

“As a department, we teach Family Life Education at the end of the year,” Gates said. “This way, my students and I have about seven months to get to know each other before we talk about sex, penises and vaginas.”

Similar philosophies are present in other departments as well.

Spanish teacher Zoraida Vazquez believes that adding personal anecdotes, as well as an interactive classroom, to her curriculum will help enrich her students’ understanding of the Spanish language and culture.

“For one of my lessons, I made my students get up and dance, even though it may have been awkward for them,” Vazquez said. “I believe that if students live the culture to the best of their abilities, it enhances their understanding of the subject.”

Social studies teacher Katie Van Nuys incorporates unique examples, such as references to the restaurant Hooters or male and female sexuality, in her AP Psychology lessons. She believes these examples will help her students remember terms more easily and also make her class more interesting.

Many teachers extend their lessons in order to create a unique and relaxed learning environment for their students.

“We have to take the time to acknowledge the fact that everybody has a shared human experience,” Van Nuys said. “If we don’t take the time to laugh at things that may be taboo, then we are missing an opportunity to make connections and make things interesting.”