Opening the world to students in his little part of Canada

  • April 29, 2010
Joe TersigniAfter Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005, students in Joe Tersigni’s Grade 10 history class reminisced via webcam with teens from the Pope’s former high school in Poland about his legacy.

It’s this kind of interactive teaching style that has left an impact on students, earning the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School teacher in Guelph, Ont., a Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence as one of the province’s “teachers of the year” in 2008-2009.

For Tersigni, who teaches history, the experience is about bringing the past to life by connecting students to the world around them and helping to inspire tomorrow’s future leaders.

“I try to bring my passion and love for Canada and our national identity (to my students),” he said.

A career highlight has been seeing his students succeed, he said.

Tersigni said many of his former students are now teachers, including three who are working at Our Lady of Lourdes.

During the web chat with Polish students, Tersigni’s class engaged in a discussion about John Paul II’s legacy in fighting Communist rule in Poland.

The 58-year-old teacher counts the late Pope among one of his heroes for his courage and strong faith. The Pope was also attentive to the international issues of the day, he said, something Tersigni tries to instill in his students.

One of these lessons came after 9/11 when the 30-year teaching veteran arranged web chat with New York high school students from a high school just two blocks from Ground Zero. The Guelph students got to hear a first-hand account of what happened during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Another came at the school’s Remembrance Day celebrations this past year, when Tersigni arranged a teleconference via webcam between his students and some Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The soldiers talked about what it was like to be in a war zone, he said, adding this was part of trying to make history exciting and relevant for his students.

On his passion for teaching, Tersigni says it began with his parents who instilled in him “a real strong faith” and taught him that Jesus was the “greatest teacher.”

“God doesn’t ask us to be successful but to be faithful,” he said.

Tersigni remembers his first class of students in 1979: “I believed in the kids and they believed in me, and that’s what makes a good teacher: A teacher with a positive attitude goes a long way.”

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