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Meet the Teacher: Mr. Demeter

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Meet the Teacher: Mr. Demeter

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Meet the Teacher: Mr. Demeter

     The Academy Chronicle recently sat down for an interview with Mr. Scott Demeter, a world history teacher who has taught at BCA for 16 years. Mr. Demeter instructs IB History of the Americas for juniors, as well as Early American History for freshmen. He is also the advisor for the school’s JSA Chapter and social affairs magazine, The Academy Global. This interview allowed the Chronicle to learn more about Mr. Demeter’s life experiences and his career as an educator.

AC: What are some of your hobbies outside of school?
Demeter: Outside of school I’m heavily involved in outdoor activities. This time of year, I’m really into skiing, both cross country and downhill, and I have been taking advantage of the snowfall for that. I’m lucky enough to live in an area that is very close to a forest preserve, a trail system, and several lakes. I also do general outside landscaping and maintaining of my house, because I just recently bought an 1820s farmhouse.

AC: What is the most important object you have in your classroom? What significance does it hold?
Demeter: I have several important objects in my classroom. Student work, predominantly: I’m really proud of the Academy Global and the work that the students put into it. It really brings me great joy to see the number of editions of the Global that are growing. Also, the JSA Chapter of the Year Awards and the stained glass window crafts hanging on the back wall are significant because they demonstrate my students’ diligence, dedication, and creativity.

AC: Is there anything interesting or particularly exciting going on in your life right now?
Demeter: Working at BCA, there is never a dull moment. There is so much going on. Our department is putting together the first school-wide history conference, which Mrs. Wallace is spearheading. There are also various competitions going on, and of course, outside of school, I’m just enjoying the outdoors, enjoying my new home, and spending time with my wife.

AC: Where did you go to high school and what kinds of activities did you participate in?
Demeter: I went to High Point Regional High School up in Sussex County. I was involved in pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I was in the theater program for a number of years, initially onstage, and then I did lightning and technical work. Additionally, I started a local news program for Sussex County on the local cable station which kept me busy. I worked as a freelance reporter for ESPN, did three seasons of sports, and I was involved in student government as well. I also spent a lot of time getting in terrible trouble with my friends.

AC: You had stated that you did three seasons of sports, earlier. Which sports did you participate in?
Demeter: My two best sports were track and cross country. I did well as a distance runner, and made varsity for four years.

AC: Which college did you attend and what were some of your favorite aspects of the college experience?
Demeter: I went to Rutgers College, in New Brunswick. There, I was also heavily involved in student government as well as student social and cultural affairs. I loved the fact that New Brunswick was located in an area which was basically run by college students. It was a great experience because it was a large school with a lot of possibilities and amazing professors.

AC: What advice would you give to students at BCA for coping with the workload and stress of high school?
Demeter: First of all, it is okay to vent. Venting is extremely important and it’s crucial to find somebody to vent to, because sometimes you need to get that off your shoulders. The next thing is time management. Sleeping is imperative, so it is necessary to time manage in order to make sure you get the rest that you need and can also maintain a social life. Time management also entails not waiting until the last minute to do assignments, seeking help when you need help, and cutting down on social media so you can actually focus on the immediate world around you.

AC: Who or what inspired you to become a history teacher?
Demeter: Growing up I was fortunate that my parents dragged me to every single National Park in the country during the summer. We spent nearly two months camping and on the road. So, it wasn’t actually a particular person, but it was my general love for the cause and effect relationship of history and seeing how historical events are playing out in current society.

Actually, becoming a history teacher was an accident.

AC: If you had not become a history teacher, what career path would you have followed?
Demeter: Actually, becoming a history teacher was an accident. I was working for the park service, having the best time ever. I was doing archaeology and working as a woodland firefighter. During one of the fires I helped evacuate a ranger from another park, and I kind of fell for her. Then she moved back East to finish up college, and during the winter I was furloughed, so I moved back home to be with her. While I was home I needed a part time job to make some money, so I applied for a job at BCA, and then I got it and I fell in love with it. Now, 16 years later, the girl is gone but the job is still here, and I’ve enjoyed it every day since.

I have three favorite historians, and they were actually professors of mine in college.

AC: Why do you think it is important to educate students about world history?
Demeter: I think history is important because it’s all about connections, and there are no clear answers, so it involves a lot of critical thinking. By making connections between what you are learning in a textbook and applying it to the greater world outside of it, you can see the secular nature of history as well as some general insights in human nature that are lacking in other areas of study.

AC: Who is your favorite historian and why?
Demeter: I have three favorite historians, and they were actually professors of mine in college. William O’Neill, wrote a great book, Democracy at War, and also did an amazing job in social history. He was really one of the founding people to discuss the significance of the counterculture during the 1950s. Another historian is Michael Adas, who taught about 20th century topics, and the way he could bring history to life was absolutely outstanding. Also, his use of projects in the college classroom really inspired a lot of the projects I use today.
The final historian is Norman Markowitz, who taught history from a socialist perspective, which gave an interesting alternate view on fairly standard subjects in history. Each of those individuals were amazing lecturers, which I really appreciate in a classroom, but they also had very unique and differentiating insights. They invited debate and discussion, and never forced anyone to accept their viewpoints.

Without knowing where you come from, it is very difficult to figure out where you are going.

AC: What is your favorite time period or historical event to teach students about?
Demeter: I like World War I because it is kind of a clash, it’s like the last vestiges of the medieval world mixing with an industrialized society. So, you still have battles with tanks, machine guns, and airplanes, but also knights and cavalries that are charging in to fight. I just find the juxtaposition of those two themes to be absolutely fascinating.

AC: Do you have any favorite history books that you recommend everyone should read?
Demeter: A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, because it provides a look at history, art, sociology, and it’s written in such poetic verse that it’s absolutely fascinating and really ties into the secular patterns of history.

AC: What is the best advice that you have ever been given?
Demeter: Mark Twain once wrote that you should never let school stand in the way of your education and I think that is an important message for both students and educators alike. It is important to look at the big picture: don’t get locked into the classroom, don’t get locked into the textbooks, go out and look at the world abroad, because an education is nothing unless you can apply it to the real world.

AC: What is the most rewarding part of being a teacher?
Demeter: Teaching is one of those great jobs that no two days are ever the same. You never have to worry about being in a rut, because especially at BCA, there is always something different happening and everything is always evolving. Every year, and every day is different, and each class is unique, so it’s always a challenge, but a rewarding challenge to fulfill.

AC: What do you think current leaders in the United States can learn from history and do you believe history is repeating itself in 2018?
Demeter: Without knowing where you come from, it is very difficult to figure out where you are going. Understanding the context of why we are here now, by better understanding history, helps us come up with more valuable and viable solutions to solve the problems for tomorrow. Now, is history repeating itself in 2018? Of course it is repeating itself, history and social movements are like a pendulum, they swing in one direction and then swing back in the other.

AC: Thank you to Mr. Demeter for allowing the Academy Chronicle to gain some insight into his life and his role in the Bergen County Academies community.

1 Comment

One Response to “Meet the Teacher: Mr. Demeter”

  1. Leah Giannantonio on March 22nd, 2018 8:04 pm

    What a well-spoken man!

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Meet the Teacher: Mr. Demeter