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Why I Teach: By George Cassutto

Choosing to become a teacher means giving up financial and material wealth. But the joy of teaching and lifelong learning can’t be given a dollar value since it is priceless.

In my family, teaching has become a time-honored tradition. My mother taught English, French, and German to high school students. She was a dedicated minister’s wife until she died of brain cancer in 1984. I became a social studies teacher in 1983, so I am closing in on the end of my third decade in education. My eldest daughter, herself a newly minted high school graduate, has expressed a desire to teach English and Drama on the secondary level. My niece teaches family and consumer sciences to middle school students. It seems that there is a gene in my family for relating to young people and sharing knowledge with passion.

I chose social studies education because of my family history. From a time before I can remember (even before I was born), my father and mother recounted how they survived the Nazi occupation of their beloved nation of the Netherlands and the Holocaust that engulfed Europe during World War II. My father became a minister whose mission it was to witness to the Jews of New York and New Jersey, and eventually in Baltimore, Maryland, where I spent my formative years. I grew up during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s with both feet firmly planted in two religious communities: Christian and Jewish at the same time. My dual heritage often bewildered my peers, and my father was often ostracized for the unusual religious beliefs he espoused, blending Judeo-Christian worldviews. His story was retold in writing by my brother, who revised and extended my father’s book, The Last Jew of Rotterdam.

I wanted to teach history to young people so they could understand the causes and effects of racial and religious prejudice. By studying the root causes of German anti-Semitism, I hoped to instill in young people an awareness of their own prejudices in an attempt to reduce and ultimately eliminate bigotry, hatred, and conflict. During the 1990s, with the advent of the Internet, I used my newly acquired technical skills to have students conduct research, develop essays and websites on what they learned about the Holocaust, and have them engage in dialogue with people from across the globe. Out of those efforts, I became the voice of my parents, who had passed away during the mid-1980s. The Cassutto Memorial Pages have been on the Internet for students, teachers, counselors, and pastors to read, reflect upon, and share with others. These web pages keep the memory of my parents alive, but they also teach their message of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding between races and cultures, concepts that young people can use to prevent prejudice and genocide wherever they may go. The Cassutto Memorial Pages are the core of my teaching website found at http://www.cyberlearning-world.com.

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