‘Teacher of the Year’ inspires Harlem students

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HARLEM -- He's engaging, interactive and he makes middle schoolers care about history by bringing the present to the past and vice versa.

Wednesday's lesson is focused on 9/11, a recent memory for many adults but these students weren't even born.

"What's most important to me when working with students at this age group is to help put them on a path to asking good questions, understanding how to find answers to questions. How to vet sources. Giving them life skills," explained Sean Robertson.

Robertson's methods are unique, offering a moderator and a debate-style learning environment. He's even written his own textbook after finding existing ones "boring."

These are just some of the reasons why he was named this years NYS Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Robertson has been an educator for the past 10 years -- nine of which he spent at the Harlem Academy in Harlem as a history teacher to 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

"It's a collaborative thing. I like the idea that this is an award in sharing with them," said Robertson.

"He's very passionate about history and that's one key thing a teacher has to have to teach a good class," explained 8th grader Kijani Ali- Gaulman.

Students Alvin Isaac, kijani Ali-gaulman, rayJon Grayson nominated Robertson because they say he makes them care about a subject they otherwise found boring.

Vinny Botoli, head of Harlem Academy says the national recognition is exciting and gives the school he started for students from tougher neighborhoods a boost in the right direction.

"The kids walk into Sean's classroom and they just light up about history and to hear about what they're studying is really exciting," said Botoli.