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Classroom Hero: Joe Heath at Aviara Middle School in Carlsbad

Social studies instructor has a knack for engaging students
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 20:39:44-04

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - A North County 7th grade teacher is the SDCCU Classroom Hero for the month of June.

This social studies instructor has a knack for engaging students by asking them to step into the shoes of those they're learning about.

"Now, when we look at America, it's a little different here right?" Joe Heath queries his social studies class at Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad.

Heath has been teaching for more than 30 years, and this day has his 7th graders focused on pre-20th century Japanese culture.

"Most of the marriages were actually arranged," Heath explains to one student. "Your Mom or your Dad choosing your spouse. How would you feel about that?"

For Coach Heath, as his students like to call him, Social Studies is about connecting and empathizing with people who lived through a different time and culture - not simply memorizing abstract names and dates.

"I don't take that approach." said Heath, "In large part because I don't remember those names or those dates. I'm really good with remembering concepts and how people dealt with difficulties historically....and those same difficulties we face today."

"It's not just absorbing facts where you write it down and then say it later," said student Rylan Hoffius. "It's actually talking about it and understanding the deeper meanings of it."

Coach Heath's lectures are like conversations as he prompts his students to take part. "With many little strokes, a large tree is felled. What does that mean?"

"He knows every one of his kids." said Aviara Principal Rose Flowers. She says Heath's approach resonates so well with students, discussions often continue outside the classroom. And as students relate to their study subjects, their bond also grows with their teacher.

"We as adults, when we make those strong connections, which Coach Heath does, it reconnects these kids to that familiar figure that an adult can be trusted," said Flowers. "You can connect with them and work hard for them. And those kids will work hard for him."

For June, we honor Joseph Heath as a Classroom Hero.

SDCCU is proudly honoring local teachers through SDCCU Classroom Heroes, launched in partnership with iHeartMedia, Inc. San Diego.

Teachers, students, parents and the community are encouraged to nominate a deserving teacher by visiting .