Linden’s National Geographic Educators transform students into ‘explorers’

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LINDEN, NJ — Two Linden Public Schools teachers have recently completed the requirements to be certified as National Geographic Educators, a group that seeks to inspire students to be global thinkers who can change the world.

Zachary Coppa, a science teacher at Linden High School, and Michael D’Amato, a social studies teacher at Soehl Middle School, completed 30-hour courses that were broken down into a three-step process to gain certification.

“National Geographic Educator certification is rooted in our learning framework, which is built around a set of attitudes, skills and knowledge areas that embody the attributes of an explorer,” said Kim Hulse, vice president of education programs for the National Geographic Society. “National Geographic Certified Educators are committed to teaching their students about the world and how it works, empowering them to succeed and to make it a better place.”

Educators seeking certification attend a workshop where they learn National Geographic’s philosophy of teaching about the world; implement two lessons from the National Geographic framework; and complete a video showing students’ increase in skills and knowledge outlined by National Geographic.

“Congratulations to Mr. Coppa and Mr. D’Amato on this wonderful accomplishment,” Linden Superintendent of Schools Marnie Hazelton said. “This certification affords them the opportunity to use new tools to engage their students and elevate their classes. For them to seek out these tools on their own exemplifies the dedication of our teachers throughout Linden Public Schools.”

Coppa said the program allowed him to analyze teaching standards and cross-curricular connections with a new perspective.

“The certification sought to set the foundation to motivate my students to adopt the explorer mindset through the National Geographic learning framework,” he said. “It provided opportunities for students to reach beyond the classroom and become global citizens who will, ultimately, create positive change throughout their postsecondary endeavors.”

D’Amato said he was a fan of National Geographic magazine when he was growing up. So when he heard about their educator certification program, he knew it was for him.

“There are countless professional development opportunities for teachers these days, and, personally, with such limited time between being a father and teacher, I have to make sure that the ones I invest my time and effort into will have a strong impact on my growth and my students’ learning,” he said. “When I learned that National Geographic had an educator certification program, I knew right away it was a program that would challenge me as a teacher and provide my students with exciting tools and activities.”

He said National Geographic helped him develop new “classroom catnip” — lessons that captivate students.

“From the National Geographic educator program, I was able to collaborate with teachers around the world to develop several new lessons and strategies that will elevate my classroom,” he said. “I can offer my students the most sophisticated tools to explore their curiosities about local and global issues meaningful to them, then empower these students to take action that could make a difference in the lives of others.”

Photos Courtesy of Gary Miller

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