As a sophomore in high school, Matt Menschner, EDU ’15, decided he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. Now, over a decade later, he spends his days around kids of that same age at Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School in North Philadelphia, where he is the dean of students.
Art school drop-in
Menschner began his teaching career at another arts-focused school, Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts. That’s where he was placed for his first student teaching assignment through Temple, and he remained there, working first as a social studies and English teacher, then becoming director of student affairs, until recently stepping up into his current position in 2021.
“A school with an arts focus is where I’m meant to be … there’s an infectious sense of school pride here, with everyone running to rehearsals and performances,” he said. “The thing that keeps me coming in every day, no matter the situation, is meeting and interacting with our students.”
School of thought
After graduating from high school in 2010, Menschner attended Community College of Philadelphia for two years, before transferring to Temple in 2012. Right away, he was captivated with the practicum-based education classes the university offered. He specifically remembers a course with Associate Professor Joseph Haviland called Effective Teaching: Theory and Practice.
“Dr. Haviland really embodied a lot of the qualities that I aspire to, and he always found a way to tie highbrow educational theories back into the practical day to day,” Menschner recalled.
As a teacher, Menschner engages his students by employing the hands-on educational skills that resonated so deeply with him as a student. For example, in a 10th grade U.S. history class, he culminated a unit on gentrification with a project where students planned walking tours of their own neighborhoods, to analyze and share the ways those areas had changed over time.
“Some of the students came up with really fascinating things. They compiled qualitative data through interviews with family and friends, and were able to put that data into very real terms,” he said.
Head of the class
Throughout his young career, Menschner has kept up a rigorous pace of professional development through his participation in The Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP), a series of semesterlong seminars taught by university professors, open to teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. He was also selected several times as a fellow for the Yale National Initiative, a similar program which provides teachers time and space to do research and develop curricula. Both opportunities have proven invaluable experiences.
“The work I’ve done with TIP has given me an element of control in an era where a lot of curriculum is prescribed,” he noted. “It has let me curate something tailormade for my students, and that’s allowed me to build an authentic level of engagement with them.”