In February, Dunedin High School teacher John Eberts was named the state’s American History Teacher of the Year by the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
DUNEDIN – John Eberts spent his first five years of school in a one-room schoolhouse just outside of Tamaqua, Pa. Fewer than 40 students, everyone in town from first grade to eighth, filled the small classroom from Labor Day to Memorial Day. During the summer, and after eighth grade, most students left to work on their family’s farms.
One teacher taught every subject to every student. Students who were together from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., from getting on the bus in the morning to getting off in the afternoon, every day for eight years.
It was an entirely different world, Eberts said, than the history classes he now teaches at Dunedin High School.
His grandfather and aunt were teachers, and his father studied liberal arts in college. Eberts, who majored in social studies at Pennsylvania State University and followed up his undergraduate degree with master’s degrees in sociology and counseling psychology and a doctorate in philosophy, saw teaching as the clear next step in his career.
For 30 years, Eberts has taught in Pinellas County, at Clearwater Comprehensive Middle School, Clearwater High School and now at Dunedin High School, where he serves as the Social Studies Department chair at Dunedin High. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Pasco-Hernando State College and St. Petersburg College.
And he’s done his job well.
In February, Eberts was named the state’s American History Teacher of the Year by the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, his second state honor of the 2013-2014 school year; in October, he was named the Florida Holocaust Teacher of the Year.
“I am not a bit surprised,” said Linda Whitely, the district’s K-12 Social Studies Specialist, in a press release. “During his entire career, John has been a teacher we can go to for assistance and his expertise.”
Eberts will likely retire in two years, but for now, he’s reaching as many students as he can in the classroom, especially in an education system that he says still needs work.
“We’ve reached a point in education where we’re so focused on everybody needing to be college-ready,” he said. “We’re doing a disservice to some of them by not offering a wide variety of classes for those who aren’t going to college.”
Eberts has taken it upon himself to make sure his students can see the long-term advantages of education. To give them a broad perspective of the world around them. And to find those students who share his love of history.
“Somewhere, there’s going to be a teacher who’s going to hit that sweet spot and it’ll click. That’s what it’s about: finding that life-changing event,” Eberts said. “You can tell that the light’s gone on, that they’re going to do something different.”
For students he’ll never be able to reach, Eberts had some advice:
“Any time someone offers you something for no cost that provides a wealth of knowledge and experience, take it,” Eberts said. “Learn from others’ mistakes.”