Teacher of the Year uses innovative tools to engage students

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
East Granby - posted Mon., Aug. 26, 2013
East Granby Teacher of the Year Susan Rosenstein engages students by bringing her own hobbies into the classroom. - Contributed Photo

Songwriting, photography and art are some tools East Granby Teacher of the Year Susan Rosenstein has utilized to engage students in her U.S. history class at the middle school. She is considered a “strong, but quiet leader” who does not seek recognition, according to Principal Melissa Bavaro-Grande.

“She really cares about the greater community and teaching kids life skills they can carry through high school and life,” said Bavaro-Grande. “She brings in some of her own interests and hobbies, and she really gets kids connected to their community and their civic responsibility.”

Outside of work, Rosenstein enjoys singing and songwriting, which she also uses inside the classroom. She said instead of writing research papers, she often asks students to write songs or raps about historical figures, including 19th century social reformers or individuals from the Revolutionary War.

Being the daughter of a history buff, her future was almost inevitable. However, the social studies teachers Rosenstein had throughout the years, especially in high school, opened her eyes to possible career paths. Throughout time, Rosenstein discovered her innate passion for teaching.

“Being able to impact the trajectory of a child's life in a positive manner and in the right direction, I think, is one of the most rewarding things for me,” said Rosenstein. “There is nothing more rewarding than when I see a student grow or overcome a challenge.”

One lesson Rosenstein wants students to understand is how history influenced the present day and how their lives impact history. She said at the beginning of each year she asks students to bring in artifacts from their homes. Then she asks them to imagine what people 100 or 200 years from now would think about your life if they found the object.

The goal of the assignment and other aspects of Rosenstein's class is to challenge students to look at historical and current issues and events from multiple perspectives. She wants them to form their own opinions through research, rather than simply believing what they read.

“She doesn't always publicize or talk about the great things she's doing,” said Bravo-Grande. “A lot of times we find out what she's doing through kids' conversation or through sitting in her class or being part of the team meeting.”

Last school year, Rosenstein oversaw a Veterans Day program where students wrote letters to service members who graduated from East Granby High School. She also supervises the Green Team, which are eighth-grade students in charge of the school's recycling. The team was created by students' curiosity about school recycling procedures, she said.

On a larger scale, she also assisted students in raising money for impoverished children on the Cheyenne Sioux Reservation. She said they became curious about the status of native Americans today. As a result, they hosted a cafe night featuring baked goods and a concert performance by Rosenstein and Connecticut State Troubadour Kristen Graves.

“She's the teacher you want your kids to have,” said Bavaro-Grande. “You know they are going to be taken care of, and you know she is going to instill in them some good values. She's a rigorous teacher, but she provides those supports for kids to be successful.”

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