Oak Knoll History Teacher Earns National Teaching Award

Oak Knoll history teacher John Petito recently earned the 2019 James McBride Teaching Award from the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation for guiding students through socially distanced learning by understanding the past history of pandemics.

Petito is one of just 36 educators nationwide to receive the award since 2014.

“I am always tying my lessons into what is happening today so that students can find meaning and relevance from the pursuit of studying history and then applying that in their own lives,” said Petito, who has taught at Oak Knoll for the past six years.

Petito currently teaches two ninth-grade sections of World History 1, two sections of Related United States Topics (RUST), eighth-grade Civics and in the past has also taught AP World History while at Oak Knoll.

Each year, the James McBride Teaching Award recognizes approximately four to six excellent educators throughout the nation serving in under-resourced communities and is one of three programs funded by the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation. Teachers selected earn a $1,000 stipend.

“Recognizing teachers, like John, who designed a lesson plan to put the COVID-19 pandemic into historical perspective for his students, is a testament to his innovating teaching methods,” said Peggy Krist, manager of the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation.

The Foundation, located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, honors the memory and charitable deeds of Jonathan Krist, a talented musician, conscientious about his politics and the underserved, who was a freshman at Oberlin College when he died in a car accident at age 19.

After his death in 2006, Krist’s mother wrote to those who influenced her son. James McBride, whose book “The Color of Water,” had inspired Krist at age 11, was one of those people. McBride has generously volunteered his time on foundation projects ever since.

“This award is incredibly meaningful to me because I have taught a few of the McBride children over the years and I’ve had the fortune of listening to Peggy and Bob Krist speak about their foundation and the work they do to advance music programs in inner city schools,” said Petito. “These are people who live lives of meaning and are active change agents in our society. It is truly an honor to even be considered. Having the support and acknowledgement from such an exemplary foundation founded by such extraordinary people means the world to me and my family.”

Although the pandemic has certainly presented its challenges, Petito remains steadfast in his commitment to Oak Knoll, to his colleagues, to his teaching and to his students.

“I continue to engage my amazing students because I know that by being there for them, listening to them, challenging them, inspiring them, that together we will make it through this period in time,” said Petito. “It is essential to engage students in this partnership called learning. By providing students with stability and calmness they have the tools to persevere and to succeed.”

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