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News Story
Updated: 11/13/2013 08:00:01AM

Teaching all the book, and more

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PHOTO BY KATHY LEIGH BERKOWITZ


Polk State College Professor Art Falconer.

By ANDREW LOYD KING

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Not every teacher can leave a lasting impression on their students. Professor Arthur Falconer, the Cultural Geography teacher at J.D. Alexander is one of the few who does. Despite more than forty years in the teaching field, Professor Falconer keeps his lessons lively and innovative. He gets his students involved in class by finding ways to relate what they have revealed about themselves and applying it to the current lesson.

Timothy Burns, a current student, said that the class is enjoyable, different and engaging.

He describes Falconer as “freelance.” The way Falconer plans class, not by what he has written or typed out in the lesson plan, but by how the students are reflecting their gain of knowledge in his class truly reflects Timothy’s description. Another student, Dorothy Racicot, who has a military background, was in the army for twelve years, first training in medical before moving onto pharmacy. She brings a lot to the class because not only has Dorothy been all over the world; she has also lived through some of the events that are covered in class.

One of the great features Falconer brings to the table is his experience. This is not limited to his more than forty years of teaching. He has been to places worldwide, and witnessed firsthand things that would potentially blow the mind of a non-explorer. He described the time he visited the Machu Picchu temples in Peru and how the long train ride was rickety. He told the class about the beautiful flowers that he saw on the ride, and how when he was at the ruins he spent an entire day just walking around out of breath and exhausted because of the high elevation. He told the students “it’s the trip of a lifetime,” and that he would go back.

Dorothy said, “It’s always good how he has been places I have been, and hearing what’s going on in those places.”

The way Falconer utilizes his wisdom gives another dimension to teaching; it is one that makes learning effortless and enjoyable.

Falconer not only keeps his teaching personal, he also keeps it up to date.

Instead of repelling technology, he embraces it for what it can be. In the middle of class, a question comes up for which the textbook does not have an answer. The professor tells his students that they must Internet search it on their cellphones. Then a barrage of answers comes forth. The students without their own Internet accessing device can look at a partner’s phone. Then once enough useful information has been searched up, everyone has the opportunity to comment. The activities come up roughly twice a class period, and in those two times, the modern world around the students informs them of modern applications or ideas relating to the topic.

When asked what he gets out of teaching, Falconer replied honestly, saying “I get enjoyment out of it. … I’m just sharing what I know.”

He added, “I’m seventy years old. If I didn’t enjoy it, then I wouldn’t keep doing it. It keeps me alive.” The students from past classes are mentioned by others who have known them in class, and Falconer is proud to say he taught them. Those men and women who have attended his classes are set on the right path of success in what they truly want to do, because he will not let a student out of his class without changing them for the better.

One such student was Martha Smith, the Student Services Specialist at J.D. Alexander. It was 1974 and Professor Falconer was in his second year of teaching in Lake Wales at Roosevelt Academy.

He was teaching middle-school then and Martha Smith was in his 7th class. Martha described his teaching style as “very animated.”

Falconer was very into his subject and was never dry, she noted, adding that he was the cool teacher in school, and everyone looked forward to his class. She said Falconer inspired her with his infectious interest and his class was the first time she had become interested or involved in politics. Smith summed up what class with Falconer still is like today when she said “You’re not always gonna get what’s in the book, but you will get much more.”


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