New World History teacher demonstrates skill of veteran teacher

August 31, 2017 — by Elaine Toh and Katherine Zhou

Student-teacher hired and utilizes skills picked up through observing teachers.  

On Aug. 21, new World History teacher Colleen Duffy laughed softly as she listened to her students debate, smiling as they yelled over the question of whether their classroom government should be a democracy, oligarchy or dictatorship.

Throughout her students’ discussion, she could hear voices saying that they wanted a government based on “Lord of the Flies” or “The Giver.” As she walked around trying to calm down her exuberant students, she couldn’t help but smile at their passionate ideas.

Duffy began teaching at the school last year. She is in the process of earning credits toward her teaching credential degree from San Jose State University, but her skills and knowledge so impressed the administration so much last year that they hired her before she fully completed her credential.

“For any college to allow a person in its credential program to actually teach classes on their own as an internship means that they really trust that person and shown that he or she can teach,” said veteran history teacher Kim Anzalone. “And that’s exactly what Duffy has done.”

Like many other teachers here, Duffy grew up in the Bay Area, graduating from Westmont High School in Campbell in 1996. Knowing the area well factored into her decision to teach at Saratoga.

Duffy discovered her passion for history as a freshman in high school. After reading “All the President’s Men,” a nonfiction book about Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s investigation of the Watergate break-in in 1972, Duffy realized how much she enjoyed learning about history. She found Watergate incredibly intriguing because of the scandal’s sheer scale: It involved people at all levels of government.

Duffy’s interest in history grew further while hearing references to the Vietnam War in pop culture during her childhood.

“People talked about the Vietnam War like we were expected to know what it was about, and I didn’t know,” Duffy said. “I wanted to know why it was so important, why it affected my generation, even though I wasn’t alive when it was fought.”

Staying true to her passion, Duffy completed both bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in history at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). Afterward, she started pursuing her Ph.D. in the subject. She never finished, though, as she soon discovered her love for teaching while conducting a seminar as a part of the program.

Duffy went on to become a long-term substitute teacher for U.S. History teacher, Margarita Morelle in the first semester of last year, and was a student-teacher for Anzalone during the second semester. Impressed by her performance, the administration hired her for the 2017-18 school year to teach three classes of world history.

According to Anzalone, Duffy came in with the skills of a much more experienced teacher, like knowing how to summarize the important information in APUSH, a class which covers more material in more depth than college-preparatory U.S. History. After experiencing Duffy’s skill firsthand, Anzalone has only positive things to say about her colleague, who she describes as a “natural teacher.”

“Duffy was able to take these huge concepts and put them into terms that the students could understand,” Anzalone said. “She has a fantastic sense of humor, she’s a hard worker, really likes and cares about her students and is a natural at presenting the material. She really knows how to connect with people.”

On the flip side, Duffy has also enjoyed working here.

“I love Saratoga,” Duffy said. “The community here and the support for the teachers and the students is just great and pretty unique to Saratoga. I know the students are really driven. I’ve had more fun teaching here than at UCSB.”

Duffy has high hopes for the upcoming school year and is excited to be able to create her own curriculum and explore new topics she hasn’t taught before in detail, such as Russian history.

Duffy’s fellow history teachers are also rooting for her.

“I’ve been here for 35 years,” Anzalone said. “I’ve seen a lot of different styles of teaching, and I know that she is going to be a huge success and the students are going to love her. It’s rare for me to be so confident in a first-time teacher — she’s really good.”

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