Teacher Spotlight: Joe Petit

Presenting CSU Alum Joe Petit for our October Teacher Spotlight!
PetitJoe Petit graduated from CSU with his BA in Social Studies and Education in 2012.  He currently teaches Financial Literacy at Garfield Heights Middle School.  Here is Joe’s story:
After dropping out of college at 19 I worked many different types of jobs.  Finally, at the age of 26 I lost my job to the recession and I went back to school beginning in fall of 2008.  I always knew I wanted to be a teacher even though I hated school and was terrible to my teachers.  My wife says that there is no more perfect job for me because, “You like to talk and you like to talk about the things you know and now they pay you for it.”
After graduation in May of 2012 it took 3 months for ODE to send me my license.  I had a few interviews but the question always came back to whether I had my license, especially from the out-of-state schools.  I signed up with Renhill, a substitute staffing agency, when the 2012-2013 school year began and worked as a substitute until Renhill called and asked if I would be interested in a 3-week long-term substitute position at Garfield Heights High School as an OGT Tutor.  In my third week the secretary informed me that the position I was currently subbing for was an actual position they were looking for.  I applied, was hired on Friday and began on Monday.  I had only a 100-day contract and after that ended I was assigned as a substitute every day by the secretary.  Finally, I was notified about the Financial Literacy position at the Middle School where I applied, was interviewed then hired.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I was inspired to be a teacher because I love to challenge people on what they think.  My classes are all focused on critical thinking skills and I challenge the class on every answer they give.  It truly is rewarding when you are able to see the look of recognition or understanding come across a student’s face when they finally get what you’ve been teaching them.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?  
The most rewarding thing about being a teacher is watching the progression of your kids.  From the first day to the last day you can see the look on their faces as they begin to understand what they’re learning more and more.  The relationships are also nice.  Get to know your kids on a personal level and show them that you’re interested.  You’ll find that by the end of the year you actually do care about them.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?  
My favorite ways to incorporate primary sources are to use technology.  Kids love using technology even if it’s just the projector.  I enjoy giving them a handout for them to follow along while the projector is up with the same material.  Videos are a must to keep their attention.  If you can find a video on anything related to your topic you should show it.  Media is how students today relate.
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?  
The most important thing I learned in my teacher education program was differentiation.  I observe other teachers and lessons because they all give you great ideas and this was something I picked up in the program.  Combine that with not being afraid to fail.  Every teacher has had the best lesson they’ve ever created but when they implement it, it turns out to be a flop.  This will happen to everyone.  Don’t be afraid of those mistakes.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher? 
Being a Social Studies teacher is all about teaching kids how to think, not what to think.  Social Studies is often the most underrated of the different subjects and it is obvious.  Non-Social Studies teachers don’t understand it or why it is important and your kids will feel the same way.  Make sure that you not only enjoy the material, but that your kids can tell how much you enjoy it as well.