We are proud to introduce our twenty-fifth Sunday Spotlight, featuring Nick Bernardini who is a History Teacher at Samuel Fels High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When it comes to teaching, Nick enjoys the consistent challenge of adapting conditions, supporting students as both a teacher and mentor, and helping students think and question critically. He also enjoys munching on Trader Joes Power Berries, hanging out with his kids, rooting for Philly sports teams, and engineering music. We hope you enjoy the interview and getting to know Nick!
Samuel Fels High School
10 years working in education
“Teaching gives me the opportunity to provide young adults with some tools that assist them in reaching their academic potential and I like to think that my dedication to them in the form of mentorship helps them become not just better students, but better human beings.”
– Nick Bernardini
Get to know Nick Bernardini
What do you love about working in education? What motivates you?
I love that teaching keeps me forever learning. I love the challenge of having to adapt to ever changing student populations, technology and the challenge that creating new creative and engaging lessons pose. Although we have curricula, I try to embrace the idea to not place restrictions on methodology and consistently experiment in my classroom. I really enjoy that I can be myself, be truly genuine when I teach. I remember early on when I realized that its not always necessary to put on a show for students, and in my experience with the kids in the Philadelphia public school system, they can spot someone putting on an act in an instant. Teaching gives me the opportunity to provide young adults with some tools that assist them in reaching their academic potential and I like to think that my dedication to them in the form of mentorship helps them become not just better students, but better human beings.
Why did you become a teacher?
I didn’t at first. I went into the trade field and became a certified plumber. I returned to school after five years, at the urging of my then girlfriend (now wife). I was always a very curious kid, I enjoyed reading and learning outside of of school. Inside though, school always felt very institutionalized and that was a turn off for me. I also have memories of only a few teachers I felt ever went out of their way to foster my curiosity as a student. When I returned to school I knew that I wanted to create an experience for students that was the opposite of what I went through.
What is your “Edulastic story”?
My wife (who is also an educator) and I are always reflecting on how to improve our instruction and our classroom experience. I am not sure who came across Edulastic first, but we both joined and began playing around with its features. It was not the first assessment platform that I had tried, but I found it to be the most intuitive and user friendly. I have been using it ever since.
Describe your favorite Edulastic “aha” moment.
I knew it was a great fit the moment my assistant superintendent began requiring us to accumulate and analyze data, record them in these matrix laden folders and create and post physical graphs of the data in our rooms. The demand was high and the work extensive. I said to myself, you know what? Edulastic already generates about ninety-nine percent of what they are asking for automatically for me. From that moment on I introduced the site to my administration and pushed for its use through out the building. It saves teachers so much time. It allows us to spend less time accumulating and pouring over data points from assessments and allows us to focus on reteaching, plus the visuals are automatically generated and easily printed.
What are your teaching/learning goals this year?
My class goals include focusing on a more socratic class structure, allowing for more student led discussion and high level questioning. My focus every year though is working with students on critically questioning and examining primary source material.
Sum up your teaching philosophy in a few sentences!
Student led with a social justice purpose.
Favorite motivational idea:
I do not believe in the term “expert” or any other label that infers complete understanding of a subject or idea. Everything is evolving, learning is never complete and adaptation is always necessary. “All great truths begin as blasphemies”- George Bernard Shaw
Tips for new Edulastic users:
Utilize other subjects question types not just the ones that fit into your area of teaching. Spend the extra money if necessary so you can take advantage of the sites ability to shuffle question order and answer order, this is a huge help in labs. Create a separate test for written responses, this way when students finish the part of the test that doesn’t require written responses they can get immediate feedback and not have to wait for you to read and grade the responses before they get an idea of how well they did on the multiple choice portion for instance.
Favorite Edulastic question type?
Snap Quiz is a great feature! But the drag and drop and resequencing questions I think are great!
Favorite snack while using Edulastic
Trader Joes Power Berries
Spring or Fall?
This is like asking me to choose my favorite child. The Four Agreements I read recently was impactful, Shogun by James Clavell might be my all time favorite work of fiction.
Best tactic for getting the class quiet?
I usually just stand quietly in front of them and look at them intently until a few of them take it upon themselves to get the rest of the class to settle down. if that doesn’t work I hit the lights rotate the room and ask for their attention.
Must- have classroom Decor:
Anything that garners an environment that the students feel comfortable in. I have posters and tapestries up in my room that reflect who am as a person not just as a teacher and I encourage my students to bring in decor that I can put up that reflects their interests as well.
Favorite time of the school year and why:
Early fall and late spring. The weather allows me to teach outdoors.
Kindest compliment you have received from a student or teacher?
A student told me my class was the only one that they felt prepared them for college and another is that they felt that I truly cared about them as a person not just a student to be given work and a grade and ushered along.
Funniest student moment?
This may lean on the inappropriate side but my principal was airing out a student in the hallway for not having a pass and started to really yell at the student. When he finished the student paused and responded “see….now this is why you don’t get no women.” Disrespectful and discipline worthy, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was brutally funny.
Greatest accomplishment in the classroom this past year:
I had several notable guest speakers come speak to my 12th graders, including Congressional Rep Dwight Evans who noted that my students questions were tougher than most by reporters on capital hill, they had him sweating a bit.
How do you like to spend your free time?
With my children, rooting for Philadelphia sports teams and engineering music