One could say that Andrew Villwock, a history teacher and alumnus from Broadneck High School, was born into the teaching profession. His grandmother and parents were educators. However, teaching wasn’t his original intention when he was going through college at Elon University or graduate school at Drew University.
At Elon, he majored in religious studies and philosophy, and one of his intellectual heroes became American philosopher and educator John Dewey.
“His emphasis on education as experience was very important to me,” Villwock said.
In fact, Dewey has such a strong influence on Villwock that one of Dewey’s quotes resides in Villwock’s email signature: “Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”
When Villwock entered the classroom as a long-term social studies substitute teacher at Old Mill High School in Millersville in 2006, he saw the opportunity to apply his personal passion for learning to his students. It felt like a good fit.
He returned to Old Mill a year later serving in the school’s English department and decided to get certified to teach full time, which he did in 2008.
Villwock taught Advanced Placement courses in history and human geography at Old Mill. He also taught comparative religions and worked with the school’s International Baccalaureate program until 2016. It was then that he had the chance to return to Broadneck, where he’s taught AP U.S. history since fall 2016.
“Andrew is a dedicated educator who works incredibly hard to create lessons that engage his U.S. history students in debate and discussion,” said Christina Houstian, social studies department chair at Broadneck.
After 17 years with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Villwock reflected on how lucky he was to have worked in incredible departments at Old Mill and Broadneck where excellent teachers modeled the best ways of engaging intellectual interests and making learning relevant to real life.
Villwock noted an event a few years ago at the Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C., where he heard the late author and historian David McCullough speak. At the festival, McCullough said the most important thing about history is that it teaches empathy and appreciation. This sentiment resonated with Villwock’s personal philosophy that education must go beyond knowing the facts.
“To really learn something, it must be understood and that understanding must come through experience,” Villwock said. “So, I try to make every lesson have some kind of personal connection to a primary source, a historical figure or a relevance to a contemporary situation so that students can connect the distant past to some aspect of their personal experience.”
Villwock not only goes above and beyond for his students and department but in other roles for the school as well.
“Andrew brings the same enthusiasm to his involvement in the school's Habitat for Humanity organization as well as the mental health club and student athletics,” Houstian said.
For Villwock, it comes down to spending the day with his colleagues, who are like family.
“They pick me up when I need it, and our collaboration makes everyone better at their jobs,” Villwock said.
Broadneck is also special to Villwock because many teachers are Bruins alumni too.
“A trip around the building means seeing some of the sports heroes of my youth or friends that I made during my years as a student here,” Villwock said. “It only adds to the sense of history and community.”
Cafe Mezzanotte is a proud sponsor of Educator of the Month. To nominate a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or other educator, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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