EL DORADO HILLS, CA - State tests may focus on math and English, but Kevin Tierney lets students know they shouldn't discount their history lessons.
"History is the glue that holds this country together," Tierney said. "It's our common story. It's a huge part of American culture."
Tierney teaches history at Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills. He's been at it for more than 20 years but recounted getting there wasn't easy.
"I wanted to be a veterinarian when I went to college. During my senior year I decided I didn't want to do that," Tierney said. "Then I started working in management at the phone company making great money. But pretty soon I decided I wanted to do something else."
His father had been a teacher and enjoyed it, so Tierney went to night school for eight years to get his teaching credential. And now he feels at home in the classroom.
He likes dealing with middle school students. "This is the age when they began formulating their own opinions and trying to be more independent," Tierney explained.
While studying early American politics, he encourages his students to take a stand and debate issues as if they belonged to the Federalist or Republican parties.
When he encounters students who are floundering, he takes action.
"I make house calls," Tierney laughed. "If I have a student who is struggling, but they have a desire to do well, I'll do whatever I can do, including going to their home. I'm able to find out why they're having difficulty. It could be because they don't know how to take notes or maybe they don't know what to study. I show them how and talk to their parents about what they can do to help."
Tierney is also known for taking students on field trips. "We go to a lot of museums like the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento," he said.
He also has pictures of students in a cemetery.
"My students used to adopt cemeteries, clean them, take care of them and learn about the people buried in them," Tierney said.
During spring break, he also takes a group of students to Washington, D.C.
But most importantly, Tierney said his students, "should learn those skills that are going to help them be successful in high school and beyond. And I want them to really know they can be successful."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org