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April 2, 2008 > John Pierce: A teacher that makes a difference

John Pierce: A teacher that makes a difference

By Joe O. Ramos
Photos By Joe O. Ramos

Walking down a hallway in Union City's Logan High School you can hear shouts in the air. As you get closer, you realize that the shouts are coming from room 502, home to world studies teacher John Pierce. Students are engaged and the shouts you heard were of joy. Pierce is giving a small lecture on World War I and what led up to the war. It is obvious that a deep relationship exists between the class and their teacher.

On Tuesday, March 18, several student groups gave presentations using illustrations of different European countries involved in the war. Someone asked, "What does Australia have to do with the war?" While another student replied, "You mean Austria?" The young female student said, "No, I mean Australia." As the discussion continued, students learned that Australia was involved in World War I because they were part of the British Empire. A classmate mentioned the Battle of Gallipoli, and it was suggested that the student asking questions about Australia's participation in the war come back with additional information for the class..

"World studies is, in my words, the examination and study of trends, historical events and, for this particular course, things that have occurred since the French Revolution, a modern world history course," said Pierce. He continued, "I have always had a love of history. At the young age of seven or nine years old I was reading history books."

Pierce has always had a love for teaching, and before coming into the teaching profession he was involved in the justice system. "In the 70s when I came out of college there were no teaching jobs so I went into another field." He decided to teach in 1996, and by 1999 returned and received his credential. Before teaching at Logan High School, Pierce taught at Barnard White Middle School. "Prior to teaching I was in corrections so, I know the down side and how failure in life can impact you. So, coming from that field gave me some street smarts knowledge, plus I am a parent. So, you can say I speak their language, and I understand youth culture, I speak the teen age language," said Pierce of his ability to teach in secondary education.

He said that the reason he is teaching is because of the kids. "Every semester is a challenge, once you have won them over it is beautiful." Pierce tries to tailor his classes so that they have a practical value. The lesson on March 18 was an example of this. "I try and teach my students to give presentations so that they can build their self-esteem, develop their confidence and also reach out to their peers." Pierce said that he tries to not only teach, but impact the lives of his students though, his students often impact him as well.

Pierce spoke of a young man, a student of his who had cancer. "It was my first year of teaching. I had a young student in my class who had cancer and he didn't have a long time to live," he said as he wiped a tear away from his eye. "He taught me a lot just by living his young life which would be cut short by cancer that there was always tomorrow and that there was always hope," Pierce continued. And that is why Pierce tries to teach his students to never look back, but to look forward, that education is the key, and that they too can impact a life.

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