New AP U.S. History teacher Chelsie Beck poses for a photo. (Photo by Arijit Trivedi)

New AP U.S. History teacher incorporates critical thinking, art into curriculum

When AP U.S. History students enter a brightly lit classroom, they find a smiling Chelsie Beck in the center of the room ready to greet them individually as they take their seats.

Junior Karabelo Bowsky is enjoying the class. 

“She makes sure to make her students feel comfortable in her classroom,” Bowksy said. “I feel as though her teaching style is very flexible so each child gets the best out of the class.”

While Bowsky was nervous at first, Beck’s attitude towards the class has put her at ease.

“I expect to find a really nice balance of having fun in the classroom but also learning a great deal,” Bowsky said.

This is Beck’s first year teaching at Country Day. She previously taught humanities at a high school in Massachusetts for a year in 2018 then teaching for a semester full time at a private high school in Georgia has helped her settle in  easily. 

“I love the community. I like the smaller class sizes and how the students are all really engaged when I’m teaching,” Beck said. “It’s lovely.”

Inside the classroom, Beck structures her curriculum to focus on critical thinking and creativity. She has added “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story” to this year’s AP U.S. History curriculum in order to keep students interested in the material. She also uses art and drawing exercises to help students learn, something she picked up in 2018 during her experience interning at the Columbus Museum of Art’s education department in Ohio.

This internship is what made her want to begin teaching.

“They have this really fantastic program called The Art of Analysis where they bring in medical students. They observe paintings and it’s to help them develop bedside manner and compassion,” Beck said. “I love that so much. I realized that I was missing developing relationships with students because you only see them for an hour at a time. This is what made me want to be with high school.”

Before this internship, Beck had initially wanted to go into museum education. This was due to an opportunity she had where she went to Philadelphia in 2010 to see historical sights, including the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center, where she loved the immersive experience.

Beck received her bachelor’s degree in U.S. History from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, her master’s in library and information science from Kent State University in Ohio and her Master of Arts in education from St. Michael’s College in Vermont.

Beck is a strong advocate for having a growth mindset, allowing students to correct their work and believing more in unit projects than in exams.

“The primary thing that set her apart from the other candidates is her thoughtful approach to what it means to teach,” Head of High School Brooke Wells said. “She thinks deeply about what the best pedagogy is for kids so she is going to be, and already is, a good teacher.”

He is pleased she doesn’t solely rely on lectures but uses discussions and activities to keep students engaged. This is especially important due to the amount of content AP U.S. History needs to cover, Wells said.

Beck is glad to have the chance to explore deeper into history with her students as well as participate in the National History Day project with her ninth graders.

“With my 11th graders, I’m excited to go more in depth with U.S. history than I’ve been able to before since it is an AP class,” Beck said. “I am most looking forward to having deep class discussions and hearing all of my students’ thoughts and opinions.”

Her focus on art extends outside the classroom. Beck danced ballet for 12 years until she dislocated her sacrum while practicing. She still loves watching performances and is hopeful that she’ll get to see some in San Francisco.Something Beck finds fascinating is reading early to mid-20th century fictional and historical novels. She enjoys learning about their perspectives on what life was like at that time. Currently, her favorite authors are Stella Gibbons, Elizabeth Cadell, Elizabeth Fair and Margery Sharp.

By Emily Cook

Originally published in the Sept 21 edition of the Octagon.

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