Mr. Schneider Shares Experiences

By Richard Oletsky ’15 

Often quirky and highly enthusiastic, Mr. Jeffrey Schneider is one of the many history teachers, where he has been teaching for the last 19 years. He teaches regents and A.P. United States History as well as Great Speeches and Debates, a Gilder-Lehrman course.

Mr. Schneider was born on Lenox Road in Brooklyn but grew up in Valley Stream, Long Island, where he lived until he went to college. He attended Valley Stream Central High School and left to Columbia College to further his education. At Columbia, he majored in zoology and graduated in 1967.

After Columbia, Mr. Schneider went to graduate school for microbiology at the University of Michigan. However, he only lasted three days there because he didn’t want to pursue a career in biology.

“I always knew biology,” said Schneider. “My father was a biology teacher, and my mother pushed me to become a doctor, but I never wanted to be a doctor.”

Instead, Mr. Schneider decided he wanted to become a teacher to avoid the draft for Vietnam. So, he took education courses and received a teaching certificate. He started off his career student-teaching biology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt Junior High School and Booker T. Washington Junior High School in Manhattan. In between teaching jobs he drove yellow cabs in Manhattan and worked at the Strand Bookstore.

Not satisfied with his teaching and his job at the Strand Bookstore, Mr. Schneider decided to give up biology altogether and pursue American History at the Graduate Center of the City University. There, he received a Master’s Degree and passed his orals for a PhD.

“I always wanted to find out about what happened to us, and how we got to where we are today,” said Schneider.

Mr. Schneider first taught in colleges, including Kingsborough, Adelphi, and Hunter. In 1995, he started teaching at Midwood, where he has been teaching A.P. U.S. History ever since.

“When you find something that you love to do, there’s so much freedom and you don’t feel restricted at all,” said Schneider. “The challenges provided by the courses and the challenges of getting students to understand American History are very exciting.”

However, Mr. Schneider feels that the Department of Education should raise teachers’ salaries and lower class sizes.

“Teachers receive the same amount of education as lawyers and engineers, but many people do not want to teach because of the low pay; it’s a shame,” said Schneider. “Also, if you can teach classes with ten to fifteen kids, you can get into each kid’s brain and dig so much deeper.”

Mr. Schneider was involved in politics ever since the tenth grade, when he and his friends started an unsponsored newspaper, which he handed out at school. He wrote political articles that showcased controversial liberal and radical ideals.

“We were always careful to print conservative points of view along with the leftist points of view to create a balance,” said Schneider.

By twelfth grade, he was editor of the newspaper.

Mr. Schneider was also part of many unions and went to demonstrations that protested war and organized workers. He was a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society at Columbia and took part in the Columbia Strike of 1968. He even marched in Washington D.C. and protested against the Vietnam War.

Mr. Schneider is happily married with a wife of 27 years, who is an editor of the book review of the New York Times, and they have a daughter who is a graduate student at Columbia.

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