Putnam champions interactive learning


World languages teacher Dean Putnam takes teaching to the next level by teaching from a coach’s perspective.

Whether students are shooting baskets while conjugating verbs, listening to French music, or discussing the results of the latest Steelers vs. Patriots game in French, Putnam keeps students’ bodies and minds active.

Putnam, who coaches junior varsity basketball at Needham High School, believes that kids learn best when they are having fun, and that is reflected in his teaching. He incorporates coaching techniques into the classroom, according to World Languages Curriculum Coordinator Agnés Albèrola.

Albèrola once walked into a classroom to see baskets hung in the front of the room. Students answered review questions and then threw a basketball into the hoop.

“He likes to keep the kids active and make sure they enjoy coming,” Albèrola said.

As Putnam is a self-proclaimed “huge, huge, Pittsburgh Steelers fan,” his class will often engage in a conversation about the latest Patriots vs. Steelers game.

“The give and take with the students is something I absolutely cherish,” said Putnam. “I think it is so much fun to come in and talk with kids, whether they play or not, whether the Patriots had a game or not, whether they play poorly. It’s that kind of give and take with kids that makes it a lot of fun.”

Putnam likes to vary the types of activities students do in class.

“I don’t try to spend a heck of a lot of time in one class doing one specific thing,” he said. “I like it when the kids come into class thinking, ‘What’s he going to do today?’”

Another way Putnam varies the class activities is through the use of technology.

According to Albèrola, students use Google Voice to record themselves, and he listens to them.

Sophomores Suri Chavali and Daria Rassoulian raved about Putnam’s presence and humor in the classroom.

“He is one of my favorite teachers,” Rassoulian said.

“He is literally the funniest person you will ever meet, and he always has something to say,” Chavali said.

Beyond Putnam’s humor, he makes an effort to connect with students individually.

According to Albèrola, he generally knows what is going on in the lives of all of his students.

Students in Putnam’s class are inspired to continue learning French beyond his class, Putnam said. Often, multiple kids come in the day after hearing a song in class with the song downloaded on their iPod.

“That’s the best part of the job: when kids take it above and beyond what you are doing in class,” Putnam said.

According to Putnam, learning French in the real world broadens a person’s horizons.

“I love the fact that another language is a way of seeing a totally different perspective on the world. In the shrinking world, there are so many more options for you to get information and to open yourself up to different perspectives,” he said. “Learning another language is just such a great tool.”

Sophia Rintell can be contacted at [email protected]