The 1960s, a period of social and political upheaval in the United States, has always been a fascination for Schenectady social studies teacher Cesaera Pirrone.
That decade was marked by the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam.
“For once, the government and people are coming to a true head, where so many things need to be changed,” Pirrone said.
The seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher at Central Park International Magnet School knew she had to apply to Brown University’s Summer Leadership Institute, which helps teachers develop the skills to lead their classes in discussions about seminal events of that decade. Pirrone was one of 23 teachers selected from across the country to participate in the institute, which will run July 8-12 and is sponsored by the university’s Choices Program.
Pirrone said she was excited and honored when she found out she was accepted into the program. She believes institute officials were impressed with her application because she is working in an inner city school, mentors student teaching interns in her classes, is a National Board Certified teacher, was involved in strategic planning for the union and part of the representative assembly for the union.
Pirrone said it will be nice to be plunked back into the world of academia for an intense week of daylong workshops where she will have access to experts in this field of study.
“You never have that time during the school year,” she said.
The five-day program will be built around two curriculum units — “Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi” and “The Limits of Power: The United States in Vietnam.”
Sometimes, Pirrone said, it seems teachers have to rush through teaching the 1960s. Through this program, Pirrone hopes she will learn about resources and curriculum projects for this period of American history that she can bring back to her colleagues.
Pirrone said the 1960s is particularly special for her because she was born in that decade and specialized in that decade’s history during her undergraduate studies. At that time, young people protested against the draft and the Vietnam War.
“I’m not old enough to vote but you’re going to take me off to war,” she said, explaining the feeling many young people had at the time.
Pirrone, who has been with the district for 13 years, said she enjoys teaching students at the middle-school level.
“They’re developing autonomy, and they’re really finding out what the world means to them,” she said.
She has taught courses on classroom management at Union Graduate College, which she said was integral to her improvement as a teacher, with help through the National Board certification process. The college also provides student-teaching interns to her classes.
Choices Director Susan Graseck said Pirrone had excellent qualifications.
“We were impressed by Ms. Pirrone’s leadership skills, dedication to the field of social studies, and potential to impact other educators in her community. We look forward to working with her,” she said.