Retro Report Council of Educators Meet in New York

By Aki Camargo
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Retro Report’s Director of Education, David Olson, led the inaugural Council of Educator summit in New York City earlier this month. During the three-day event, the council, a group of high school and middle school teachers from across the nation – provided feedback on Retro Report’s teaching resources, met with producers and developed strategies to strengthen critical thinking and civic engagement in the classroom.

Educators discussed the skills students need to be global citizens, and how Retro Report’s materials address these needs. Since its launch in March 2020, Retro Report in the Classroom has curated nearly 100 short documentaries, lessons and activities that inspire critical thinking and nuanced discussion about history, civics, and science.

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Members of Retro Report’s first Council of Educators met in the news organization’s Manhattan newsroom. Front row, left to right: Lauren Goepfert, Matthew Bunch, Kevin Erspamer, Jessica Torres, Fatuma Hydara, Ryan Werenka, Trish Everett and Sam Futrell. Back row: Jason Milke, Fabian Carballo, Chuck Taft, Clayton T. Sweeney II, David Olson, Lauren Piraro, Joe Welch and Asim Gaffar. Photo credit: Dagmar Rothschild

Kevin Erspamer, a social studies teacher at the Drew School in San Francisco, said his students were often inundated with inaccurate information about current events.

“Retro Report does a great job in a short time of presenting a more nuanced view,” he said in an interview during the summit. “It’s really important for students to develop that skill of not falling victim to those extreme positions, but rather seek out the more nuanced viewpoints.”

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Educators collaborate to develop strategies. Photo credit: Dagmar Rothschild

The Council of Educators is one way Retro Report is learning from teachers about ways to meet their needs. Director of Education David Olson said constructive feedback and lively brainstorming activities were the top reasons for holding the summit.

“I really saw bringing together a group of educators as an absolutely essential part of what our mission is,” Olson said. “I knew we could capture some of that magic if we brought really smart people together in one place.”

During a visit to the Tenement Museum in Manhattan, educators were paired with docents who led a tour of tenement buildings and described the experiences of immigrants across several generations. Later, teachers met with the Tenement Museum’s education department to learn about online resources.

During the summit, teachers took an inside look at Retro Report’s video production process. Jessica Torres, a social studies curriculum coordinator from Waco, Texas, is a curricular specialist who often recommends Retro Report materials for use in classrooms.

“The depth of research that goes into each of the videos was phenomenal,” she said.

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Educators speak with producer Matt Spolar (second from left), who has made films on the Cold War and racial injustice in sports. Photo credit: Dagmar Rothschild

Council of Educators members will continue to create lessons that incorporate Retro Report videos, and collaborate to reach more educators. Retro Report’s immediate goals are to increase its resources for grades 6 to 12 and reach 100,000 teachers by 2025.

“We were able to compile just an all-star group of educators,” Olson said. “I’m really excited to see what they create and what projects they decide to dive into.”

Retro Report’s mission is to inject context into today’s news cycle, using the clear lens of history to bring a greater understanding of current events and to fight misinformation. Retro Report’s work inspires critical thinking and discussion about history, civics, and science. Its journalists have deep experience at major news organizations including 60 Minutes, CNN, CBS News, ABC News and The New York Times.