Herald Head of the Class 2021: Joshua Levitt, Freeport High School Social Studies

On finding inspiration and helping students achieve excellence

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Freeport High School's Joshua Levitt talks about helping students achieve their potential.

Why did you become a teacher?
From a young age I knew I enjoyed teaching. Throughout my time in Boy Scouts, I had leadership positions that enabled me to teach other scouts. After my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to share my love of history through education. I knew that becoming a teacher would allow me to educate others as well as continue providing community service.

Tell us about a teacher that inspired you as a student.
Mr. Catalano, my music teacher for grades 9-12, was one of the teachers that inspired me to become an educator. His passion for teaching and dedication to students was amazing. He truly demonstrated what it means to be an educator. He dedicated hours of time after school, weekends, and during summer vacation to provide meaningful opportunities for his students.

What did you experience or learn about teaching—yourself, your students, the process, etc.—during the pandemic that you think you will carry forward?
Teaching during the pandemic reinforced the idea that educating students is far more than just teaching the curriculum. Providing opportunities for students to talk about their experiences, and providing social emotional learning is just as important as curriculum. The pandemic allowed me to review my curriculum and infuse these invaluable parts of education.

What’s the most memorable thing a student has said to you?
You are the definition of what a teacher should be. You are kind, caring, and you challenge your students to do better each and every day.

What has been your toughest challenge as a teacher so far?
The toughest challenge I have faced as a teacher is convincing all of my students that no matter what obstacles they have faced they are all capable of excellence.

What has been your proudest moment as a teacher so far?
My proudest moment as a teacher was watching one of my students graduate from Princeton University this year. Knowing that she accomplished her goals was truly rewarding.

What surprised you the most when you first started teaching?
The greatest surprise for me was how much I truly enjoyed teaching and how welcoming everyone was to a new teacher. 15 years later and I still feel the same way about my students and colleagues.

How do you keep students engaged and interested?
I create a safe environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions and discuss topics that are controversial. This keeps students interested in our history and encourages meaningful participation.

What is an aspect of being a teacher that you think most people outside the profession don’t know or fully understand?
I think the aspect that many people do not fully understand is the time commitment that educators dedicate to their students. The day starts at dawn and ends long after I have left the building. Vacations and weekends are also working days.

What advice do you have for aspiring teachers?
Teaching is the most rewarding profession. The successes are not always measured in numbers.

What is the most important thing you hope a student takes away from your class?
To always be kind and consider all points of view. Always understand that people come from unique backgrounds.

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