Social studies department faces changes

With the fourth quarter well on its way and summer break not far behind, there is a certain buzz about SHS concerning what next year may look like – particularly in terms of the social studies department. Along with the retirement of longstanding teachers Mrs. Schwinn and Mr. Jacobson, there is to be a shift in the curriculum. Their respective classes, Anthropology and Political Theory, will no longer be offered, but also on the horizon for students is the opportunity to take entirely new courses.

According to Evan Schmidt, social studies teacher and Chair of its Department, these changes to the curriculum include the addition of Civics, AP Psychology, and UWM Econ-100, as well as the consolidation of sophomore-level classes – European, Asian, and African Studies – into two world history sections sorted by time period: the Ancient & Medieval Worlds and the Modern World. These classes are also planned to include a wider expansion into the Western Hemisphere.

“It is of great importance to learn about how different regions interacted with one another throughout history, and this is difficult to do in courses that focus on one continent. … developing two new World History classes [will let all] students explore multiple perspectives of our planet’s past,” Schmidt said. “[Additionally], next year’s course offerings will exist for the foreseeable future.”

— Evan Schmidt, social studies teacher

While the development is intended to streamline the curriculum and improve the student experience, there have been concerns raised that certain historical periods and events may not receive the attention they deserve. According to Schmidt, the implements are based on the latest educational standards and are designed to provide students with a more engaging and relevant curriculum. Schmidt also noted that the new courses being offered answer to often-received requests for new APs or more in-depth classes, and will provide students with wider opportunities to explore different areas of study.

“We have worked very hard to navigate what is a significant transition in our department, which also includes the change from Economic Theory to Financial Literacy this year,” Schmidt said. “We are mindful of the State Standards, requirements from our School Board, our human capital as teachers, student interest in course content, and student/caregiver benefit in college preparation for those intending to follow that path … our two new teachers will be working with the three of us and with administrative guidance to create these classes in which we will ensure continuity of current key content and rigor.”

On the note of new developments in staff, the retirement of Mrs. Schwinn and Mr. Jacobson is undoubtedly a loss for the school community, but it also presents an opportunity for growth and renewal. By bringing in new teachers and updating curriculum, while also keeping student and wider-community concerns in mind, the school is positioning itself for continued success and providing students with more opportunities to succeed. Schmidt commented on this as well.

“The impending retirements of Mrs. Schwinn and Mr. Jacobson is very bittersweet. They are both exceptional educators, mentors, people, and friends,” Schmidt said. “They have set a very high bar for the future of this department, and we are very much looking forward to continuing our tradition of providing an exceptional and high quality social studies experience at Shorewood High School.”

It remains to be seen how exactly these changes will play out, but Schmidt consistently expresses the need for outside, community feedback. The changes coming to Shorewood High School may cause some anxiety and concern for students, but change is ultimately necessary for progress and growth. The Social Studies Department’s willingness to listen to students’ concerns and feedback is a hopeful sign that their voices are and will continue to be heard.