Charles Pearson has taught AP European History for decades. While his students’ success on the AP Exam might be seen as its own measure of success, what truly makes Charles an exceptional educator is his dedication to the craft of teaching, and to his colleagues and their well-being. His students remember him for his kind professionalism—that unique mix of being committed to student learning, while holding them to high standards. His peers see in Charles a man who is remarkable at his job in the most quiet and humble of ways, without seeking credit or attention for the good work he does.

What attracted you to teaching at first?
I have always loved an academic atmosphere, study, scholarly research and reading. Teaching provides opportunities for all of these for me. I have a great love for history, and I wanted to share this with others.

Charles Pearson.
Charles Pearson.

Has the appeal changed?
Absolutely not. Even during retirement, I shall still be able to create my own “academic atmosphere.”

What keeps you going year after year?
Since I have been in Catholic education for over 40 years, what has kept me going is the fact that I see teaching as a vocation, not a job. I sincerely believe that I have been called by God to teach over these past years, especially at Marist School. So I believe it is really this religious dimension that “keeps me going.”

What do you think makes a great teacher?
I think students would be able to give the best and most reliable answer here. They know! But from my perspective, I think what makes a great teacher is one who has a passion and love for the subject being taught, a person who can academically challenge students, someone who is fair and firm, and a person who cares and has an interest in students.

What do you want to see in your students?
From the perspective of a history teacher, I would certainly want my students to have an understanding, an appreciation and a love for history. I would want them to be critical thinkers and writers. But as to the bigger picture, eventually I want my students to enter professions where they are happy and see themselves as contributing to the betterment of our society.

How do you engage your students?
I guess I am “old school” as I see a need for lecture-oriented classes, especially for Advanced Placement European History. But I think even with lectures, you can certainly get the students involved by questions and answers. Furthermore, I believe films and the use of humor can help to engage students. However, I don’t think a teacher needs to put on a dog and pony show to engage students.

Do you have a project or special program you use year after year?
During the course of the year in AP European History, I use the film series “The Western Tradition,” narrated by Dr. Eugen Weber. For many, Dr. Weber has almost become a cult figure. Many enjoy his style and at times, his humor. After the AP examination in May, I usually have a project that students work on for about two weeks. This year, they are researching current issues/problems in European society.

What do you hope your students take away from your class?
As I mentioned before, I hope my students develop a love for history. In addition, I want them to take away from the class an appreciation for the cultural achievements of Europe, especially in the areas of art and architecture. I try to point out to students that cultural achievements are what endure through the centuries.

Editor’s note: Through our “Exceptional Educator” series, Reporter Newspapers is showcasing the work of some outstanding teachers and administrators at our local schools. If you would like to recommend an Exceptional Educator, please email

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.