4 Dec

Jessica Stern I Am Geo

I am Geography

I first came to love geography when I was about 10 years old. I took classes at the local community college during the summer that taught me about the cultures and diversity around the world. I can remember being in those classes copying maps on to large pieces of paper and then filling them in as detailed as I could make them. Later, as an eighth grader, I won my school’s Geography Bee, which allowed me to attend the Maryland Geography Bee that spring as a contestant. I poured over countless books preparing for the competition. Though I didn’t win, I loved the hours I spent inside studying and it made me want to learn more about the world. Later, in college, I decided to major in Education because I wanted to spread my love of learning to future generations of students. My focus of study was History, but I took as many courses in Geography as I could fit in to my schedule.

As a teacher, earlier in my career, I heard about the AP Human Geography course that was gaining in popularity. We did not offer it in my district, but I was frequently advocating for the course. When the time came in 2007 that my county would be starting the course during the following school year, the principal selected me as the teacher over someone with more seniority because of my enthusiasm for the course and its content. This is now my 11th year teaching the course and it just keeps getting better. One of my favorite things about teaching the class is that there is always something new to talk about. My other favorite aspect is explaining the essential question, “why of where” to my students.

One of my favorite things to do is to travel and explore places both near and far that I have not experienced. As an AP Human Geography Reader in Cincinnati every year I spend the after work hours exploring the city and finding various ways in which the course comes to life in that city. Migration, culture, gentrification, it is there for the exploring and questioning. I have traveled throughout the county and in Europe and decided several years back to show my students the benefits of experiencing the lives of people different from their own. I have taken students to Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic and Greece, as well as taking several students to the European Open House of Embassies in Washington, DC that is held in May each year. I love seeing them get excited about how different and yet the same we all are. That is Geography to me.

Lastly, through my work as an AGS Teacher Fellow, I have exposed my class to the technological opportunities geography has. Through my attendance at the Symposium last year I was introduced to Open Street Map and the idea of “democratizing” data for the world. At the end of the last school year, we held our first Mapathon, where my students worked on mapping areas in Brazil. The students really enjoyed it and saw yet another way in which Geography is everywhere.

Become a member of the AGS, and let us feature you as part of our “I AM GEOGRAPHY” campaign which will light the path for all of you closet geographers to get involved in making our world a better place through Geography.

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