Faculty Focus: Paul Estin

By Sidrah Baloch
Published: October 2009

Paul Estin didn’t always know he was going to be a teacher.

Estin, who went to the University of Chicago and has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, says he didn’t consider teaching his “calling until after he was laid off from a tech job and started teaching at Casa Isla, a Department of Youth Services system. After three and a half years at Casa Isla, Estin was hired as a Psychology teacher at Newton South.

“I realized I loved teaching teenagers, but I wanted to do so in a more stable environment, Estin said.

Now in his third year at South, he teaches A.P. Psychology and freshman World History, two courses that seem very different on the surface but that Estin believes are similar in how they both provide students with information and experiences they can apply to every aspect of life.

“It’s hard to read about a situation in everyday life or in world news and not see how it might relate back to psychological themes and/or historical patterns, he said. Estin uses these world connections to keep his classes interesting and involve both himself and his students in the topics at hand.

In addition to teaching classes, Estin advises the Conservative Student Union, which was founded last year. Estin, who self-declaredly leans libertarian, enjoys the insightful conversations that arise during group meetings.

“We can have fruitful discussions when we disagree on topics’€which we frequently do, especially on foreign policy’€while still finding points of agreement, he said.

Estin’s myriad interests outside of school include, among many others, “filk music (science fiction fan music), bicycling, cognitive science, modern fairy tales, complexity and chaos theory, and xenobiology. He also plays six instruments, primarily the guitar.

Estin hopes that his students ultimately gain the ability to “analyze and synthesize information so that they can form their own opinions and views rather than solely depending on established ideas.

“The hard thing is to recognize bias and yet still see some value in new information, Estin said. “If my students come out of my class better able to slowly build up an informed, critical view of ‘Ëœhow the world works,’ and modify it in the face of new information, that would make me happy.

Estin also wants his students to learn how to utilize clear communication skills to organize and express their thoughts.

Estin brings to his classes a wide variety of interests and experiences that he uses to shape the way he teaches. “I expect that I’ll be reinventing my courses constantly over the years as well as trying new ones, he said.

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