I first learned about Justice Teaching from R. Fred Lewis. I was selected to participate in the Justice Teaching Institute last February, where I came into contact with all seven justices. It was a phenomenal training, and one of the things that stands out the most is how much Justice Lewis and the other Justices obviously care about kids here in Florida. He explained that judges and lawyers can come into my classroom and help me to teach a lesson about the judicial branch to my students. He said they were waiting and eager to help. I was dumbfounded. I could not believe that this resource was available for my students and I didn’t know about it. I was sold. He made us promise to use this program and train other teachers about Justice Teaching. I promised enthusiastically. He even let me get my picture taken with him. I was really excited.
When I came back to Kissimmee, I went to the Justice Teaching website and looked up the list of volunteers and was disappointed to find only one name for our county. I called up the name on that list and he hadn’t been in a classroom for a while. He was game, though. He came to my classroom and worked with my students and he became a celebrity in my hallway by the second visit. It took him some time to navigate the halls of my school with all the students calling after him to say hello. This program was an unqualified success in my classroom.
The problem is that I also promised to share this program with other teachers. The problem with that wasn’t my eagerness to share this wonderful program, but my worry that with 8 middle schools and 8 high schools in Osceola County, it would be difficult for one volunteer to help every school. I joined forces with Rachel Slone (the superhero in charge of social studies for the middle schools of Osceola County, and a former Justice Teaching Institute alumni), Daniel Villazon (the Justice Teaching superhero), Annette Boyd Pitts and Erin Watson (superheroes in Florida Civic education), and Justice Quince (Superhero in Florida’s highest Court) and together we made an engaging professional development for Osceola County teachers. Daniel suggested that we could get more volunteers for the teachers at the training by reaching out to the Osceola Bar. We did that very thing on August 19 and received a warm welcome and I was fortunate enough to get seven people to sign up for Justice Teaching. We definitely need more. Eight volunteers is a terrific start, but with sixteen schools, our ambitions for our students are higher. I am grateful for the fantastic people in the legal world of Osceola County and for the opportunity to reach out to you. I am excited for our students who will benefit from your experiences and insights into the Constitution and the courts. Below is the letter that I sent to the volunteers who signed up. Please consider it a letter to you and follow the instructions to get your name on the Justice Teaching list. Be counted with those professionals who will stand for our students and guide them to excellence. Thank you for everything that you do.
Hello wonderful future Justice Teaching volunteer! This is Joseph Haber, the teacher from Osceola County you met at the Bar Association meeting! I am so excited to bring you into one of the great Osceola School classrooms that need your expertise. First let’s look at the need for your help.
The screen capture may be small, but can you see how there is only one volunteer in all of Osceola County? We have 8 middle schools and 8 high schools, and Daniel, a practicing attorney cannot possibly help all those schools by himself.
He did a great job.
See what I mean? These kids had an amazing experience because of him. We need to grow this program. We need more kids smiling about the Constitution.
Wait a minute, you might say. Are there teachers who want a lawyer coming to their classroom? Well I’m glad you asked.
Look at these wonderful Osceola County teachers with Justice Quince, just waiting for you to visit their classrooms and meet their kids.
Sign me up, you say? Where do I start, you say? I know you’re excited to begin so let me show you what you need to do.
Start at www.justiceteaching.org
That is the homepage for Justice Teaching. On the left where it says “For Volunteers:” click on the purple link that says, “Volunteering for JT”.
Then you get to this page. Do you see the link that says, “Training is available by contacting Local Justice Teaching Coordinator Judges?” Click it. You will need to participate in a one hour training. Then your name can go on the volunteer list. Right now our one volunteer is regularly in use in my classes at my school. My intention is to coordinate school visits so that you will be in a classroom on a regular basis. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected].
There are lesson plans.
There are a lot of great Middle School and High School lessons. They are excellent and already created. They just need to be executed. I hope this document helps you get started with Justice Teaching. I will follow up with you to ensure that everything goes ok. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
8th grade Civics Teacher at Horizon Middle School here in Osceola County.