MERIDEN — As the new school year gets in full swing, Maloney High School social studies teachers Deborah Banas and Chad Cardillo are giving their students a first-hand account of history after a grant-funded trip to central European countries over the summer.
The Record-Journal sat down in the classroom with Banas, a Maloney teacher for 12 years, and Cardillo, a Maloney teacher for four years, to talk about their nearly two-week trip to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as a day trip to Germany, and how they will be applying the experience to their lessons this year.
Q: How were you able to have this experience?
Banas: So we were afforded the opportunity to apply for this fellowship and we looked at what we taught in our curriculums and thought that traveling to central Europe was going to be best for both of us so that’s how we kind of got the ball rolling.
Cardillo: The fellowship was awarded through an organization called Fund for Teachers, it’s a non-profit that basically exists to give out-of-school educational opportunities to teachers mostly through traveling. So we decided to go to Central Europe, between Debbie teaching AP European history, I teach AP psychology, but we’ve all taught world history before and I also teach US history and civics. So we cover a lot of different territory and this trip definitely helped kind of feed into all the different subjects.
Q: What did you want to take away from this trip and bring back to class?
Banas: Well for me having just started teaching AP European history, I realize that there is a lot of European history that I don't know a lot about. In doing research on the countries we were going to, the focus was really on just these cultural crossroads.
Cardillo: I looked at it as far as for both my U.S. history classes and my psychology classes, especially the psychology classes. Just looking at countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria being countries that were subjected to Nazi rule during World War II, but then Central Europe being behind the iron curtain during the 50’s into the late 80’s, early 90’s. Looking at kind of the psychology of how that works.
Q: How do you think that firsthand experience of being in those places, where the history you are teaching occurred, will impact your lessons now?
Banas: It was very real when we went into these museums, a lot of them actually we couldn’t film or take pictures so that part was kind of nice because you really had to be in the moment and you felt like you were living that experience.
Cardillo: I think it’s important too because we get questions all the time as history teachers. Students always ask ‘why are we learning this stuff?’ ‘why do we have to learn about history, it happened already,’ and yes it did but it’s important because the United States and all the countries that we visited are different because of the things that happened.
Q: Have you traveled like this before?
Cardillo: I’ve done a decent amount of traveling actually. Earlier this year I was in Malta and Portugal on vacation. But when I go on vacation it’s different, it’s not the same idea that we had here where we really actively searched out historic sites, museums, different areas to kind of learn from. It was a different way of traveling.
Q: What are some changes you’ve seen in the way history is taught?
Banas: Youtube, social media, I mean just staying connected I think that’s been really connected. I remember I first started teaching it was 2007 and we still had overheads and we were making photocopies.
Just little things like being able to pull up video clips and teachers who are making videos and sharing those online, that’s really been a nice way to make connections with the students.
Q: Why do you love what you do?
Banas: We talk about how history is important in a sense that it’s not about the dates or always about the names, but it’s really about getting the kids to think and just look at the world differently. I just really enjoy that. I think that’s where my passion comes from.
Cardillo: Both of us grew up in Meriden so I think just still being in Meriden and being familiar with people around us and seeing what you can do with this information. I think it kind of helps us be more personable with the students.
Banas: We have a connection here so probably on our worse days we’re still probably trying to get it out of them and really make them as passionate as we are.