Mr. Fenster’s Scintillating Summer

Kate Shanahan, staff writer

During warm summer months, most people can be found relaxing to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Students and teachers relish their time off from being educated and educating. However, Robert Fenster is not like most people. 

Fenster spent his summer taking educational trips to become a better teacher. For the past decade, Fenster has dedicated his summer vacation to his professional development. “I want to keep improving as a teacher and I have an insatiable curiosity,” Fenster says. A majority of teachers would rather spend their time off relaxing compared to cramming work into their vacations. However, “relaxing” is not in Fenster’s vocabulary. Fenster took eight main excursions across the country this summer. Fenster traveled to Montana, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Boston, Cambridge, and California. 

Fenster’s favorite trip was to his favorite city in the United States: San Francisco. Fenster received the Law-Related Education Teacher of the Year award from the American Lawyers Alliance. Fenster was nominated for the award a few years ago but was not the final selection for the award. “I subsequently applied the last two years and was fortunate enough to be selected,” Fenster said. However, his trip was not just business. Fenster got to spend time with two former students, Eric Phillips and Ryan Malloy. In addition, Fenster visited his spirit animals, the sea lions at Pier 39. Even though San Francisco was Fenster’s favorite trip, the most rewarding trip for Fenster was the time he spent in Boston and Cambridge.

In Houston, Fenster attended the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly. Fenster was elected by his fellow union members to represent them at the assembly. Fenster, along with several other people, worked on numerous predicaments for students and teachers. Similarly to Fenster’s trip to San Francisco, Fenster had a good time by meeting with various presidential candidates. 

Fenster spent a grueling four weeks at the Massachusetts Historical Society program. Fenster was able to use the archives to conduct extensive research on the election of 1824. “It was pretty amazing to see documents that no one had looked at in decades or possibly centuries,” Fenster mentioned. Fenster enjoyed his experience there and learned so much that he plans to incorporate facets of that project into his future lesson plans.

Fenster was also given the opportunity to attend the National Endowment for Humanities program in Sleepy Hollow, New York. “Our group mostly met on the grounds of an old plantation that was largely intact from how it used to be in the 1700s,” Fenster said. Fenster and his group learned about slavery in the colonial North. Fenster researched slavery in New Jersey, and more specifially Fenster searched for information about slavery in Hillsborough. When he returned home, Fenster paid a visit to the county clerk’s office and found original documents such as birth certificates and emancipations of enslaved people from Hillsborough. “I’m hoping I can get some of my US I History students to continue that research and perhaps find ways to memorialized the shameful history of this area,” Fenster said. 

Fenster begins registering for these programs and fellowships long before most people are even thinking about summer vacation. Starting as soon as December, Fenster beings the application process. Fenster looks forward to searching for programs to participate in for the summer of 2020!