Eric Wise is a seasoned Social Studies teacher of inner-city students. New to Dohn this academic year, Mr. Wise fits perfectly into Dohn’s milieu. On the day of this interview, well after the last bell, a female student sat in the back of his classroom, concentrated in study. Mr. Wise radiates a comforting, experienced presence that is obvious to students and staff.
He started his working life in a family grocery store business that the family established in 1979. In 1987, when the Norwood General Motors plant closed, the family store lost a significant amount of business. His father restructured the full-service grocery store into a convenience store. Mr. Wise managed this store for 13 years, and then owned and operated it for two more years. He then sold the business to his brother, who subsequently sold the store to people outside of the Wise family.
Becoming a Teacher
This career change led to further education for himself. He had a B.S. degree in Social Sciences from the University of Cincinnati and after leaving the grocery business, he went to Miami University, where he received his M.A.T. in Secondary Education.
Openings for a Social Studies teacher were rare at the time he was ready to teach. After substitute teaching for one and a half years, he joined the staff at Harmony Charter School. There, he met a young teacher in his first year of teaching, our Director, Ramone Davenport.
“It is not a given that a student will complete high school and for many of our students, they are often the first in their family to do so.”
Through other colleagues at Harmony, Mr. Wise heard about a professional assistant social studies position in the Sycamore School District. He was hired for the position; however, the job market was volatile. Last in, he was the first out.
Within a month of leaving Sycamore, Mr. Wise secured a position at Life Skills High School. He stayed there for 11 years before coming to Dohn this year. While the student population is similar at both schools, education at Dohn is more traditional and less computer based, he says.
Applying Government and Economics to Student Life
Mr. Wise, like many of our teachers, is challenged by block scheduling. “It is hard to maintain interest for 90 minutes, especially in the subjects of Government and Economics. Social studies is not a favorite subject: it can be a little dense.”
The link between government, economics and daily life is not obvious for students who live with urban violence, neighborhood poverty and generational joblessness.
“Social studies is not process driven; it is content driven. Students need to learn how to analyze.” Critical thinking is a learned skill, one that he is focused on helping his students develop. “Language is complex, and a lack of understanding the language gets in the way of understanding the subjects. There are a lot of moving parts in the subjects of Government and Economics.”
“Students don’t seek out that kind of news,” he adds. “Their interest in reading has declined, and they do not like to write.” Despite these challenges, Mr. Wise finds satisfaction in teaching complex thinking to his students.
He appreciates that Dohn and Life Skills are considered ‘schools of last resort.’ “It is not a given that a student will complete high school and for many of our students, they are often the first in their family to do so,” he says.
Mr. Wise does see student growth, even this early in the academic year. He looks forward to end-of-course exams so he can have outcome measures for his students’ growth. Toward these ends, Mr. Wise offers practice exams, he breaks up his subject matter into easily digested components, and he encourages students to engage in conversations that allow them to apply what they learn in his class.
A Presence of Comfort and Care
With two decades of teaching, success for him comes through meeting former students and learning they experience success in their lives. “It is gratifying to hear them continue to exhibit an interest in the subject matter when I meet them later in life.” A humble man, he is reticent to share that he receives compliments from former students who credit him with having a positive impact on their lives.
With a palpable presence of comfort and care, we do not have to wait decades to share with Mr. Wise that we are grateful he is here with us at Dohn.