Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Importance of Building Connections

This past Friday an exciting event took place at my high school due to the efforts of Colleen Tambuscio, who is a fantastic Holocaust teacher. The U.S. Department of Education visited with a group of Polish educators to learn more about how our school teaches the Holocaust and genocide. The nine educators who visited New Milford were part of the International Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of Education. They spent 10 days in the United States traveling between New York and Washington, DC specifically for the teachers to learn more about the American approach to teaching the Holocaust and genocide.

The morning began with Collen providing an overview of our school's comprehensive Holocaust education program; highlighting the course curriculum, the study seminar to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the overseas trip to Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. Three NMHS students each spoke about an experience from the trip that left an impression upon them which they aligned with a video clip from trip documentaries. These educators had many questions for us regarding our approach that led us into great discussions about content and pedagogy. We soon discovered that our approaches are not worlds apart and that we share many common themes in our teaching of the subjects. These educators offered to partner with NMHS during future trips to create student exchanges when we visit Poland. Jenny Eisenberg, from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs arranged for the teachers to visit our school. She was very impressed with our students and offered to encourage our students to apply for student leadership and exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Cindy Hsu, a CBS Correspondent, interviewed the students and teachers during this visit. The news video aired on the evening of Friday March, 25 2010 and a corresponding article was published as well.

So where does the building connections come into play? On Colleen's end she is an exemplary educator who has created one of the best high school Holocaust education programs in the country. Through her many years of work experiences she has gained the trust and respect of experts in the field of Holocaust education from all over the world. She works tirelessly to to fund the trip through private donations. During this process she comes across influential people who are also passionate about helping students learn from this dark event in history. This passion then translates into opportunities for our school and students like the ones listed above.

As Principal, it is my job to share with the community the great things occurring within the walls of my building. Social media outlets like Twitter have enabled me to reach not only my community, but stakeholders in education around the country, state, and world. One particular connection I built through Twitter was the one with CBS News, NYC. They heard about how we were utilizing this social networking tool and ran a story entitled "Students at a NJ School Learn to Tweet". This led to a connection being formed with a major media outlet. The end result, since November the students and staff of NMHS have been featured on CBS News NYC three times, as well as many other media outlets. I challenge all teachers and administrators to build connections in order to provide meaningful learning opportunities to your students and share the incredible accomplishments occurring in all of your schools. If you are not utilizing social media and networking tools to accomplish this goal then you are really missing out!


  1. Wonderfu job as spreading the word. Too often, schools are only on the news for negative reasons. I agree that it is important to spread the good word about all of the wonderful that happen in schools. Keep up the great work!

  2. Eric,

    Great post and a lot of really good points about how critical it is for educators to build connections and network. I think that the emphasis you place on networking should also be connected with the dire need for schools to invest in hand-held (mobile) technologies. Much of the reason why students, teachers, and administrators don't connect with enough people (I think) is because they can't let loose when a great thought or idea comes to them. The more accessibility that these groups have to various forms of social media, the more compelled they will be to use it. As more and more people realize that great things are coming out of schools through these outlets, they will jump on board as well. Just a thought and attempt to extend on your ideas.

    Great post.