Former BRES pupil now teaching the lessons

Soren Barker returns home to teach middle school social studies
Sat, 09/08/2018 - 7:30am

It wasn’t that long ago when Soren Barker was a Boothbay Region Elementary School student, but now he’s one of the teachers. Barker is the new BRES seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher. This is his first professional teaching job.

Ten years ago, Barker graduated from Boothbay Region High School, and 14 years ago, his new colleagues, like Mrs. Wheeler and Mrs. Chase, were his teachers. He can now call them by their first names, but it hasn’t been an easy transition. “Calling them Sandy and Cory is a little weird. They kept telling me it’s OK, but to me, it will always be Mrs. Wheeler (and Mrs. Chase),” he said.

After graduating from high school, Barker headed west for college. He studied at two of Brigham Young University’s campuses. He started at BYU Idaho before transferring to the main campus in Utah. Barker, a Mormon, took a year's break after his first year to provide community service in California. “As a member of the church, it’s recommended to do community service for a year or two,” he said. “I went to California, learned Spanish, and got married before returning to school."

Barker majored in theater and minored in history. He completed student teaching last spring when he learned about a possible opening at his former school. He contacted Principal Mark Tess about the potential vacancy in the social studies department.

“I heard rumors about the open position and thought — Oh, boy! — I really want that job,” he said.  Barker returned east because of the close-knit community Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor are. “I really love this community. There’s a real special energy and I love not having to lock your car or house doors. There is a real trust between one another,” he said. 

Barker is teaching one seventh grade social studies class and three eighth grade classes. He teaches ancient history to the younger students, and American history, government and economics to the older ones. He also teaches Maine history to both groups. Barker described developing a middle school social studies curriculum as being “very challenging.” Ancient History deals with past civilations and current life. In U.S History, Barker is beginning with a unit on the Constitution.

“It’s a very broad curriculum. Ancient History is about how the Greeks and Romans shape our current society. In U.S. History, we're starting with the Constitution and reasons why there is a Bill of Rights, and how citizens draw upon past experiences to impact citizens' lives today.”

In January, he plans to introduce “Project Citizen” to his students. The class examines how citizens devise plans for solving community problems. Students will search for a community need, perform research and seek solutions. “They may write their congressman on a really important issue. Students will break down a plan, address it, and in some cases, it may actually go forward with a community who likes what the students discover.”

As a history teacher, Barker wants to make the past relevant to students. He plans on searching ancestry data bases seeing if any of the students’ ancestors participated in the Revolutionary or Civil wars. His own search of his family’s history inspired this lesson. Barker discovered an ancestor was shipwrecked off Pemaquid in the 1600s.

“If a student discovers one of his ancestors participated in a historical event, it brings a personal connection to an event,” he said.

Barker started an afterschool drama class called “The Greatest Club.” It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. The first meeting was Sept. 6. “First, we need to establish what kind of theater we want to do,” he said. “I’m thinking it might be improv or might work on monologues. I think Acting is an important class because it allows one to see another’s perspective which I think is an important quality.”