Harlem High School teacher encourages independent thinking

MACHESNEY PARK (WREX)- Just by walking into Eric Junco’s classroom at Harlem High School, it’s obvious he loves his job.

His smile is contagious as he teaches his English classes, and his students say his classroom is different than most.

“He’s got a lot more positive attitude than a lot of my other teachers,” student Albert Provenzano said. “He wants to help more than he just wants to get through the day.”

Junco said his favorite part about being a teacher is igniting a passion for reading and writing in his students, and he does that with unique classroom exercises.
“I try to emphasize choice in the classroom,” Junco said. “And so I always make it available to students in the context of reading and writing, the choices that they make about what they’re reading or what they’re writing or what they want to discuss, and even sometimes how I assess what they’ve learned.”
Junco uses discussions and debates often in his classroom, which allows students to think independently.
“It gets a fire in everybody’s belly, and everybody has something to say,” Provenzano said about his class during discussions.
He said his experience in Junco’s class is unlike any other classroom, because instead of constantly taking notes, he gets to explore topics through his individual thought process. And Junco said the students aren’t the only ones learning, but instead he feels like he learns something new every year.
“I like allowing them to pick certain debate topics and I learn those topics along with them, in some ways I like to diminish my authority and say I’m learning this for the first time too,” Junco said.
But for one student, Junco taught him more than just reading and writing, and gave him a new definition of success in school.
“Recently my grades were slipping,” Provenzano said. “I went to Mr. Junco for help, and my mom even came with me, and he gave me a little talk, and remotivated me, and really made me want to become more successful.”
Provenzano said he has his English teacher to thank for helping get a new outlook on school and bringing up his grades. But for Junco, he’s just doing the job he always wanted to have.
“It’s a passion, it’s my life’s dream, its a commitment, so I just love teaching,” Junco said.


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Lindsey Fafoglia

Lindsey Fafoglia

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