MONROE — Some people might think teaching eighth-grade U.S. History to four or five classes each day for 16 years might get a little boring, but not Douglas DelVecchio, this year’s Teacher of the Year for the Monroe Public Schools. “It never gets old,” he said recently. “Each class has its own personality. They each approach the subject in a slightly different way. They ask different questions.”
Mr. DelVecchio is carrying on a legacy. His father taught the same class until he passed away in 2003. Mr. DelVecchio had just applied for and been offered a position to teach seventh grade geography when his father died.
Mrs. Healey, who was then principal, called him up to ask if he might want to consider taking over his father’s position instead, which he did. He is now teaching the students of his father’s students, which can make things interesting at times when he meets the parents.
His mother taught fourth grade at Monroe Elementary School until recently, and his wife now teaches language arts across the hallway from his classroom at Jockey Hollow Middle School. She was among a dozen or more colleagues who wrote nomination letters to the district, suggesting Mr. DelVecchio be named this year’s Teacher of the Year.
His passion for his subject shows when he begins discussing this week’s assignment: the Mayflower Compact. His classes have a “history toolbox” to help guide them in their assignments that includes sourcing (primary or secondary), context (time and place), balancing perspectives (founding fathers vs women vs people of color), corroboration (other documents), and interpretation (reading between the lines).
As students work together in small groups, Mr. DelVecchio asks them if they understand this meaning of the word “compact” and why there are references to the Plymouth colony being part of northern Virginia.
The depth and wording of historic documents such as this may also throw students at first, as well as the older, alternative spellings of some words, such as “civil body politik.”
Mr. DelVecchio views his job not just as a teacher of history but also as someone who is developing tomorrow’s citizens and helping guide students to succeed. A lot of what they learn in his class can be applied in many other situations. Students are learning to think more critically and to begin to apply the past to develop a roadmap to the future.
He is also inspiring students to become interested in teaching history in the future. He’s already had six students return from Masuk High School to work with him on their capstone projects. Some of those students have expressed a desire to become teachers.
“I love the subject,” he said. “I try to bring history alive each time. I like to reach out to students who may be struggling and help them find something they are good at.”