Swanson’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Mr. Campbell, teaches 8th grade world geography and serves as the 8th grade team leader. He is in his 13th year with APS. Previous positions held by Mr. Campbell within APS include substitute teacher, testing coordinator, administrative assistant for discipline, instructional assistant, and high school teacher.
When asked how Mr. Campbell became interested in education he responded, “I loved the study of history and global affairs for as far back as I can remember, but I had several absolutely terrible social studies teachers and lots of classmates who hated history. I always jumped at the chance to hook others into some aspect of what I loved, and to help others understand the relevance of historical and global thinking skills.”
Mr. Tarquinio, another one of Swanson’s 8th grade world geography teachers, is someone that is a mentor to Mr. Campbell. “I had and have the honor to work with Mr. Tarquinio in the role of an instructional assistant for 3 years, as a student teacher, and as a fellow world geography teacher for 5 years. Mr. Tarquinio demonstrates a level of equanimity and patience which I have always found impressive. He consistently reigns in my crazy ideas, while being willing to embrace change where it is truly most impactful and manageable for students.”
Like most who teach, Mr. Campbell has both joys and challenges in his job. “I get to help students grow in so many ways during what is one of the most challenging years of their lives, much less their educational careers, and get to play a role in moments of others’ individual and cooperative success on a daily basis.”
“My biggest challenge is in not taking it personally when students struggle and growing in my own understanding that there is only so much, I can do, for my part. Balancing a sense of equity, fairness, and my very high expectations is also a constant mental struggle for me. I also get very frustrated working within the constraints of grades, as I feel passionately that grades shortchange students and take the focus away from learning as a process.”
Mr. Campbell has the following thoughts on teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is the most challenging year of teaching I have ever experienced, bar none. It has taken up the most of my time, required the most compromise, been the most frustrating, prevented me from reaching students, and has taken the biggest mental toll. Despite all the effort, I constantly feel disappointment that students are being robbed of the collaborative, project-based, discussion-heavy activities that typify the usual World Geography experience. I know everyone is doing the best they can, but if I never have to teach to a blank screen again, it would be too soon.”
Speaking on his motivation Mr. Campbell stated, “I solidly believe if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. I think my job is well worth doing, so while I may not always do perfect work, the work I do is the best I was able to do in the time I had and with the skills and knowledge I had at the time. That being said, there is always room for improvement.”
Mr. Campbell would like for parents and those outside of the school to know three key points.
- “We are constantly reflecting and changing our lessons and elements of our practice itself. We make choices on what to change and how to do it based on our educated and experienced view of what will be best for students.”
- “Teaching does not just mean standing at the front of the classroom delivering knowledge to students. It takes many, many other forms, and many of those other forms which rely on students taking greater responsibility for their own learning are a heck of lot more time consuming to make and more challenging to implement than a lecture. These student-centric lessons are also typically more effective IF students are willing to put in the effort.”
- “We strive to always challenge our students to reach their potential and to grow into self-actualized adults. This means we expect students to make mistakes, to encounter failures, and to reflect on and grow based on those mistakes and failures. We want students to have those experiences, as protecting students from ever having those experiences stunts their ability to cope in the future.”
Something you may not know about Mr. Campbell. “I always try to choose my neckties specifically based on what is going on in class that day. Sometimes the reasoning is a bit of a stretch, but I always strive to make that connection. I also run a board game group of primarily Swanson or former Swanson educators, and am always on the lookout for new gamers to add to our mini family within our larger Swanson family :)”
Mr. Campbell is currently reading book eight of Robert Jordan’s fourteen book fantasy epic Wheel of Time. “Thankfully, all the books in that series are available digitally through Fairfax or Arlington Public Libraries, as they are tomes. In between availability of those titles, I read recently or am reading Antony Beevor’s Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944, Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming, and Dan Abnett’s The Founding: A Gaunt’s Ghosts Omnibus. All that being said, the best books I’ve read recently is probably Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which I read over many nights to my daughter.”