An Insta-Ready Teacher Saving The Future Generation
"Sexiest Teacher Alive" Nicholas Ferroni is a revered educator and historian who mentors mostly lower-income students with deep personal commitment and care.
He's been teaching History at a high school in central New Jersey for the past 14 years. Ferroni goes beyond the curriculum to make sure his students are learning valuable life lessons that will help them navigate outside of the classroom. When BTI first heard of—and saw—Ferroni, we knew we had to pick his brain to find out how America fell in love with this schoolman.
Beyond The Interview: You do social experiments. What has been the most effective one?
Nicholas Ferroni: I have done a few social experiments over the years, and all are very effective. But, the most effective ones are the "Declaration of Independence" experiments where I have students protest against the school, and the one where I show the boys how unfairly women are represented in government by having a female class majority vote on school policies that directly effect the boys. The boys always flip out thinking it is so unfair, then I let them know that is exactly how women feel in Congress.
BTI: How does media/social media influence students?
NF: Students tend to lose their ability for empathy and compassion, because they are being exposed to so much and so often. It affects their ability to focus and even leads to a lack of self control.
BTI: What challenges do today's kids face that you didn't face when you were a student?
NF: Kids today have smart products which means they don't have to be. They don't have to research, think, learn how to spell or even practice patience. Everything is at their fingertips, and that means they don't have to do or learn anything since their toys do all the work. Social media is having a strong effect on their social skills and ability to be compassionate.
BTI: What’s one success story from your students' progress that has struck a chord with you?
NF: I have many, especially when it comes to teaching them to feel for others, fight for others and care about others. I have so many students who are much more open-minded and empathetic toward their classmates and to me that is the ultimate goal of an educator. I love seeing them think for themselves and be compassionate towards others.
Outside of opening students' minds on various social issues and getting them to be more outspoken in matters of injustice, the best feeling a teacher can have is seeing a student succeed and knowing that you were a part of their success. One of my former students was an inspiring photographer and, at the time, he had a decent portfolio, but nothing published. When a magazine wanted to feature me on their cover, I lobbied to let this young photographer shoot it, and they let him, and they loved the photos. So, one of my former students had his first magazine cover at 19-years-old, and now he is a very successful photographer in New York city. I had a similar situation recently, when a different former student took the photos for my feature in Muscle & Fitnessmagazine. Those are the moments that matter the most.
BTI: What haunts you today about the American education system?
NF: That we focus so much on getting them to answer questions and not getting them to question answers. Life is not multiple choice, it's open ended. We are cutting the Arts, which are essential to education and, most importantly, we are not allowing teachers to care about a student's emotional stability in addition to their academics.
NF: We are living history and it just repeats itself, with different groups filling the spots. I use present-day situations to teach about past events, as well as pop culture and current events. I have found that experience is always the best way to learn.
BTI: In school, they teach the basics like science, math, English. But nobody seems to cover life-challenges that will inevitably test everyone in the future. Is anyone working on changing that? How do we teach kids how to deal with things like loss, grief, separation, intimate relationships, self-esteem, and fear?
NF: Though I technically teach History, I include life and social development in every lesson. We analyze human beings and nature throughout History, and we haven't changed that much over the years. We also discuss topics that teens and young adults face every day, such as depression, self-esteem, body image, acceptance, and many others. History is a history of human beings, insecure, angry, intelligent and ignorant human beings, and I do everything I can to teach them to learn from the mistakes of others, especially mine.