At multiple points during Ed Anegon’s early teaching career he’s been asked what works best in reaching kids and inspiring them.
“I think I always come back to one word – empathy,” he said. “Having empathy, in my opinion will go a long way for anyone who is a teacher.”
Anegon was recently honored as the Jenkins High School Teacher of the Year at the Shining Star Renaissance Assembly. It is an award voted on by the JHS staff. He won the award in just his second year teaching at JHS and third year overall teaching.
Getting inside student’s heads and figuring out the interesting elements of an upcoming lesson is something Anegon focuses on. As the teacher for AP US History, AP World History, Civics and Current World Affairs, Anegon has wide-ranging topics to interest kids in the classroom.
“I find ways or come up with ways to present the information in a way that isn’t always about rote memorization of dates and facts,” Anegon said. “My favorite lessons are always those which get students thinking, laughing and feeling.”
When Anegon had to present to his class the infighting of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson as part of George Washington’s presidential cabinet, he had to figure out a way to get kids interested in the early development of the United States’ government and federal political system. Not exactly light reading for even the most scholarly of political enthusiasts.
“Let’s listen to a little bit of Hamilton: The American Musical and use the cabinet battles – basically rap battles – to get why Jefferson opposed Hamilton on the formation of a national bank,” Anegon said.
Anegon also had his students, who were studying the Indian Ocean Trade Network, figuratively sail the network to discover which goods came from where and why certain societies had advantages.
“Or let’s throw a tennis ball into a bucket after getting review questions correct, because, you know, learning,” Anegon said with a smile. “Anything that gets students engaged, I’m all in.”
Anegon got into teaching while attending Washington State University for four years. His wife Jessie was working on her DVM and Anegon was working on a PhD in political science.
“I had gotten involved with coaching tennis at Pullman High School, first as a boys’ assistant coach and then as the girls’ head coach and honestly loved coaching and working with high school athletes,” Anegon said.
Political science began to become less stimulating and teaching at the college level became less appealing for Anegon as the job market for political science PhD’s wasn’t great for staying local.
“I sought other options and a certification in secondary ed was it,” he said. “The best part about the job is seeing students engage, buy in and just get it. That’s the ultimate reward/award. I love seeing students just get it and be involved.”
Anegon got his credentials through Lewis-Clark State College and he did his student teaching at Jenkins High School in the spring of 2013 with Geno Ludwig and Patrick Mitchell. His first year of teaching was spent at Waterville Jr/Sr High School in central Washington.
With the move to Chewelah, things are a bit different from what Anegon is used to. And he loves it.
“I went to a large high school with graduation classes in excess of 350 students and felt sometimes like I got lost as a student,” Anegon said. “I’m sure the same things happen with the faculty as well.”
Anegon added that working at a smaller school means you develop better relationships with faculty, staff, students and the community. Of course smaller means more challenges but he said he really values the connections he’s able to make.
His work in the classroom didn’t go unnoticed by the school staff, and Anegon said he’s still trying to find the words to describe the feeling of being honored as the Teacher of the Year.
“I really think there are probably more deserving teachers than me at the high school who have been doing this for longer,” Anegon said. “But I also see it as some sort of validation. I guess for the fact that I must be doing something right in my classroom.”
Anegon said he spends time wondering if he could have done a lesson better or focusing on what he didn’t do as well. This can sometimes lead to a teacher thinking more about what didn’t go right in the classroom as opposed to the things that did go well.
“I also thought to myself that I wouldn’t have received this award if I didn’t have students willing to try out whatever craziness I had planned for the classroom,” he added.
So while Anegon said he’ll never do away with putting a book in front of students and doing some good old-fashioned studying, he’s also always looking for ways to give them the information in a way they’ll remember it and think about it in a critical manner.
“I always come back to the fact that all of these students will at one point in their lives become political beings so why not give them the tools to do that work and fulfill their civic obligations as citizens,” Anegon said.
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff