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Thursday, February 27, 2020

STE’s Ginsberg Earns Classroom Excellence Honor

STE lecturer Eric Ginsberg

It was early in his career as a high school English teacher in the early 2000s that Eric Ginsberg had something of an epiphany. He observed how his students at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa talked about hip-hop music — particularly the enthusiasm with which they consumed and analyzed artists’ lyrics.

He realized it was something powerful that he needed to harness.

“(Learning) shouldn't be something that's secondary, and for the students, hip-hop was something that was primary,” Ginsberg recalls. “At some point I decided that I needed to know enough to build an English class all around hip-hop.”
I do have this belief that for all the things I can’t change about the world or politics or things outside my sphere, educators can make the world a better place.                   —Eric Ginsberg
And so a new course on the literature of hip-hop was launched at Helix and Ice Berg — Ginsberg’s rapping classroom alter-ego — was born. What also took root from the experience was Ginsberg’s passion to build English curriculum that connects with students where their interests lie — classes that, in his words, “refuse to be boring.”

For the past 12 years, Ginsberg has brought that passion and wisdom to San Diego State University as a lecturer, cohort leader and graduate advisor in the School of Teacher Education (STE). On Feb. 21, his work at SDSU earned state-wide acclaim. Ginsberg was honored with the California Association for Teachers of English (CATE) Award for Classroom Excellence at the College Level at the group’s annual conference in Los Angeles. Watch his acceptance speech.

Ashley Prevo (’18), a former English Language Acquisition student of Ginsberg’s who is now an English teacher at La Jolla High, nominated him for the award.

“He not only focused on getting each pre-service teacher in his class ready to teach English, but also modeled for us how important it is to care about our students,” Prevo said. “Like Maya Angelou said, ‘People won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.’ Ginsberg's class was a place to share our struggles and successes and to feel supported.”

SDSU Roots 

For the past five years, Ginsberg has led STE’s Three Semester Block (3SB) program, which prepares middle and high school educators. It’s an assignment that has brought his life full circle.

“I'm now leading the cohort that actually produced me,” he proudly notes. “Every single day I show up here and I think, 'I get to teach at State.’ It's quite amazing.”

A 1997 English and comparative literature graduate who earned his teaching credential in 1999, Ginsberg’s SDSU roots run deep. He arrived as a transfer student in 1994 and spent six years working for Aztec Shops. He flipped burgers in what is now East Commons and later met his future wife while managing the General Store in the old Aztec Center. Get Ginsberg talking about Aztecs men’s basketball, and his enthusiasm for — and encyclopedic knowledge of — the team bubbles to the surface.

But what he’s truly enthusiastic about is the opportunity SDSU gives him to make an impact on future teachers.

“The reason I do what I do is that I want to prepare these future English teachers to make a difference for students,” Ginsberg said. “I want them to not only care about their students and to show students every day that they matter, but also to have the best methods and the best results.”

Inspiring Students and Educators 

Ginsberg is now in his 21st year teaching at Helix, though it should be noted that Ice Berg is currently on hiatus while the hip-hop class is being taught by other teachers. Another of his signature classes is an exploration of science fiction literature.

“It's all Frankenstein, robots, virtual reality, extraterrestrials and zombies,” Ginsberg explains about his course that explores science fiction with a social justice lens and the question: What does it mean to be human?

But he’s also undertaken a new challenge at Helix — getting students still in high school passionate about a career in teaching. Funded by a California Department of Education grant to build a career technical education (CTE) “future educators” program focused on increasing diversity, he now teaches a class for 10th through 12th graders where he imparts the skills required to become an educator and build curriculum.

“Now kids in high school are learning the best of what I've been a part of here at San Diego State in the School of Teacher Education,” Ginsberg said. “I do have this belief that for all the things I can’t change about the world or politics or things outside my sphere, educators can make the world a better place.”