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November 2016

UD Graduate Brings Great Conversation to the Classroom Through the American Teacher Initiative

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Jonathan Greenberg teaches 7th and 8th grade history at Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, Texas. But just a few years ago, he was the deputy attorney general for the state of New Jersey. It may seem like a big jump to go from arguing cases to a middle school classroom, but the change has satisfied a long-time desire for Mr. Greenberg.\r\n\r\n“I went to law school because I liked thinking deeply about ideas. It combined my interest in the humanities and law, but it turned out that actually practicing was dry and did not offer me opportunities to explore ideas,” he said.\r\n\r\nHe and his family moved back to Texas in 2013 and with much dissatisfaction, he continued to do legal work until he finally had had enough. With a bachelor’s degree in politics and master’s degree in humanities from the University of Dallas (UD), Mr. Greenberg decided to see if he could find a teaching job.\r\n\r\n“I had to find a way to transition into education that would work for my family. During that time, I worked on an emergency teaching certification and also began to learn more about Founders Classical Academy,” he said.\r\n\r\nAfter doing his research, he contacted the school. He then applied to The American Teacher Initiative (ATI), a teacher recruiting and training project that could help him secure an assignment. ATI is a project of ResponsiveEd, the Texas-based charter operator that runs the Founders academies in Texas and Arkansas.\r\n\r\nATI was established in 2015 for the purpose of finding people like Mr. Greenberg. The idea behind ATI is that teachers in the US must be prepared to help students value the principles of liberty at the heart of nation’s identity. This requires a strong academic knowledge of the ideas that produced this liberty and the virtues required to promote it.\r\n\r\nThat was Mr. Greenberg’s perspective as he began his shift towards teaching, and it was a perspective that was cemented while at UD.\r\n\r\n“When you enter college, you think you know a lot. The UD environment follows the Socratic method of learning, which helped me think deeply and consider other viewpoints. It also showed me how to participate in the great conversations of Western Civilization,” he said.\r\n\r\nLoammi Caros is ATI’s co-founder and program director. She was impressed with Mr. Greenberg from the first interview, and was glad to see him join ATI’s 2016 cohort.\r\n\r\n“He’s a really thoughtful guy. You can tell when you talk to him that he really knows history and politics. While he is still developing as an instructor, he knows how to help his students connect history with our contemporary problems,” she said.\r\n\r\nAnd connect they do. His middle school students are eager to talk about topics such as the 14th Amendment and how it applies to some of the issues they see on the news every night.\r\n\r\n“I want to bring these conversations into the classroom. We need to venerate our Founding Fathers while not being afraid to acknowledge our missteps along the way. Both good and bad, these lessons are important. We need to be talking about them,” he said.\r\n\r\nLike all of the teachers in ATI’s program, Mr. Greenberg represents a different kind of educator, one who embraces the idea that literacy and content are critical to learning. It’s one of the reasons he participated in ATI even after earning a certification through an educational service center. At ATI’s training institute, held at UD in July of 2016, cohort instructors presented the idea that education programs must be based on coherent content so students become deeply literate and should teach students what virtue is so they can be responsible citizens.\r\n\r\n“At all of our schools, we share the Founding Fathers’ view that maintaining a free society depends on knowledge and virtue. These ideas are tied together. ATI was created to find and prepare educators to teach in this environment, and a well-educated, thoughtful person like Mr. Greenberg is just the right candidate for our program,” said Mrs. Caros.\r\n\r\nATI’s cohort members are now teaching at seven schools in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Tyler. ATI has started recruiting for its 2017 cohort. For more information about applying, see its website at www.americanteacher.co.