Chris Stanley - Valley Breeze Article

PHS’s Stanley honored for innovative teaching
Posted on 08/10/2021



PHS’s Stanley honored for innovative teaching

By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer

GLOCESTER – Ponaganset High School history teacher Christopher Stanley is among a handful of teachers across the country who won the grand prize in the 2021 Henry Ford Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Award for his work bringing hands-on learning to students.

Over the past year, Stanley worked to bring an interactive 9/11 tribute to Ponaganset, including the 9/11 Never Forgets Mobile Exhibit, a traveling museum, and several days of educational lectures and activities.

Before that, Stanley brought Vietnam veteran and “The Things They Carried” author Tim O’Brien to the school to speak to students about his war experiences. He also organized “Black History 101: An Inclusion Project” to support a school-wide series about African American history and culture.

He remained humble about the award last week, telling The Valley Breeze & Observer, “It’s just part of who I am.” For Stanley, putting together large projects that go beyond the letter of the job description shows students how to be a good person.

“I want to mirror that Jeffersonian ideal of an educated, community leader,” he said.

Though becoming a CIA agent was his first choice growing up, Stanley said he always knew he would be an educator. After graduating with his master’s degree, he turned to teaching as a way to give back to the community.

“Community service and giving back is always at the forefront for me,” he said.

As a volunteer firefighter and captain at the Warren Fire Department, Stanley said the 9/11 exhibit hit close to home. Most of his projects, he said, are reflective of his interests, and he bounces ideas off students on what is most interesting for them to learn.

In teaching, he said, it can be difficult to measure or see the impact on individual students. With the projects, he said he knows he’s made an impact on students as well as other members of the community.

“Everything I do is an extension of what I do in the community. For me, it’s fun. It gives me more energy than being depleted. There’s something about putting these projects together that gets me going mentally,” Stanley said.

Part of his success comes from failures, he added. He said not everything is golden or works out as planned. But through his failures, he’s gotten better at making larger projects happen, he explained.

Stanley added that his student’s brainstorming and support adds to the projects. In fundraising for the 9/11 memorial, students created a chopped-wood drive, blood drive and food drive. Students ‘involvement in the process is integral to each project’s success, he said.

“We stick to it, and it’s their innovation that matters,” he added.

Stanley said he’s always respected the armed forces and the sacrifices soldiers make to protect the United States. That was why he led the Vietnam War series, bringing the moving Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall to the school in 2018 to show students how many gave “the ultimate sacrifice” for the country.

For the Black History project, Stanley said he did not feel well-versed on the subject and wanted to take a deeper dive into the struggles and history of Black Americans.

“It was something more than a lecture from me that could impact students in their day-to-day life. I want to move people emotionally at the same time,” he said.

Stanley said he has more projects planned for next year, including an educational series on the Native American Nipmuc tribe indigenous to the Ponaganset High and Middle School area. He said he expects to teach another 20 years before he retires and plans on continuing to make the community and its students’ lives richer and fuller.

“I’m miserable if I’m sitting still. I have to be in motion,” he said.

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