A Teacher to Remember
Being a student in Nutley for 13 years has impacted me in many ways. Throughout each year of schooling, I’ve not only grown as a person, but also all of my teachers have taught me things that will stick with me even outside of the classroom. In my last year of middle school, before we had to venture off into the high school, I had a teacher that challenged and pushed me like never before. James Vance, my then-social studies teacher at John H. Walker Middle School, is one of the main reasons I am where I am today academically.
Teaching in districts like West Winsdor-Plainsboro, Edison Township, and Nutley, this school year will be his eighth year as an official classroom teacher. Although he is a teacher for social studies, he and his colleagues joke that he is more of an English teacher. Vance explains, “My aim, as a teacher, is to provide students with experiences that reinforce good habits like high standards, good communication, work ethics, professionalism, a desire/need to learn a subject from multiple angles, and perhaps most importantly the ability to develop a well-supported opinion on any issue.”
Vance's well- thought- out lessons on ancient civilizations give students a basic knowledge of how things came to how they are, how governments and economies are interrelated, and whether they see any value to ancient philosophies. This shapes students to grow as an individual and helps them start to form their own opinions.
About six years ago, the middle school put into action a system of grouping. Within each grade there were three different groups, where those set students had teachers they rotated between. This was made for closer connections between students and teachers and to make it easier for teachers to work together to make sure their work isn’t piling up. Many students and teachers became quick fans of this system, one being Mr. Vance. “Working on a team is awesome because you get to collaborate and see each other's individual teaching style, philosophy, and great ideas. Teaching is kind of an art and science wrapped into one- we constantly evaluate how our lessons went and make methodical improvements. Therefore, it's helpful to have a sounding board of great professionals that you can bounce ideas off of,” Vance explains.
Vance attended The College of New Jersey to receive his Bachelor Degree and Arkansas State University for his Master’s Degree. Being a teacher has always been something he loved and wanted to do. Vance says, “I wanted to see a better society filled with more conscientious and capable people, and I think that forms the foundation of how I conduct my instruction.”
Although he does not reside in Nutley, he is very fond of the town and its historic background. He has met all different kinds of people being a teacher in this town and made many positive connections even while being from another state. “I feel like a part of Nutley now, and I think there's a strong town fabric or spirit here that probably not many other towns get to enjoy.”