At Charles E. Jordan High School, Sam Bernhard ’16 is teaching his students to love English class.
Sam Bernhard ’16 did a lot during his time at Oberlin. Between being the captain of the men’s soccer team, a course writing associate, and an admissions intern, Bernhard was a well-rounded student. He double majored in English and politics and minored in both law and society and environmental studies.
Bernhard learned to hone his writing skills at Oberlin. In Political Leadership, a first-year seminar taught by Emeritus Professor of Politics Paul Dawson, Bernhard experienced criticism of his writing for the first time. He explains, “Before taking Dawson’s seminar, I had mostly received praise for my writing ability. In that class, I learned humility as a student as I simultaneously developed my skills at writing for a critical audience.”
In higher-level English courses, Bernhard’s love for literature flourished under the encouragement of his professor and advisor, Laura Baudot. Baudot showed him how to creatively approach different types of literature, especially poetry. Discovering new ways to look at literature led Bernhard to realize his dream of becoming an English teacher.
Bernhard also had meaningful experiences outside of the classroom during his Oberlin career. For instance, he says that his experiences as a student athlete were some of the best of his life. In addition to making lasting friendships with his teammates, Bernhard remarks that he gained valuable time-management skills that carry over to his busy lifestyle today. His love of soccer is still very much alive, and he is now the assistant coach for Jordan High School’s varsity soccer team.
After graduation, Bernhard moved to Durham. It was there that he applied and was accepted into Duke University’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. The rigorous 27-week program combines graduate-level classes at the university with student teacher work in the community. Bernhard took a variety of classes in black feminist poetry, film philosophy, and hip-hop, but focused on English literature. After completing the program, Bernhard decided to apply for his current position at Jordan High School because of his memorable experiences working there as a student teacher.
“Working at a high-need school like Jordan is challenging. We have too few resources, too many students, and our building is very old. Keeping all of this in mind, the successes teachers can have with students are all the more rewarding,’’ he says.
“I try not to get overly warm and fuzzy about teaching, but helping students see something new about the world or develop a new skill is truly what makes the challenges worth it.”