Treasure Mountain teacher breathes life into history
When Jon Bald thinks back on high school, he has few horror stories. He wasn’t the awkward adolescent struggling to fit in, nor was he the too-cool teen yearning for adulthood to finally begin. Unlike many, he reminiscences on the time with fondness, not shudders.
He enjoyed his experience so much, in fact, that he decided to go back after college.
"I went to a boarding school and loved it," said Bald, a Michigan native. "So out of college, where I got a history degree, I ended up working at a boarding school that was close to where I was living at the time. I interned there for a year and decided it was something that I really wanted to do. I went back to school and got a degree in education."
Bald brought his love for school and education to the Park City School District about seven years ago. He teaches social studies at Treasure Mountain Junior High, where he said, the enthusiasm for learning is infectious.
"It’s all about the energy," he said. "I love to feed off the energy of the students, and I love being able to kind of be somebody who can give them some insight into something they had never thought of or give them a different perspective."
Bald is passionate about teaching, in general. But he has a particular fervor for teaching social studies. As a history buff who also loves following current events, it’s the perfect fit. His primary aim is to help his students become what he calls "smarter global citizens." He said developing informed, engaged citizens is crucial at a time in which events halfway around the world can have large effects on normal Americans.
"In order to be able to interpret current events, you need to have a knowledge of history," he said. "In order to understand where we are today, you need to kind of go back in time and see how we got here.
"It’s pretty tough to watch the evening news and be able to interpret what’s going on in the Middle East if you don’t know the treaties of World War I or World War II or the different groups that live in that area or whatnot," he added. "It’s pretty key to being an active citizen."
Following Bald’s cue, many of his students transform into news junkies throughout the year. They, too, develop a thirst for the news and using history to contextualize it. Occasionally, even, he will run into former students who tell him they still pay attention to current events only because of his class.
For Bald, seeing the lightbulb turn on for students is one of the perks of the job.
"When big current events happen, it’s exciting for me to show up in class," he said. "It’ll be a Monday and the kids will be like, ‘Mr. Bald, did you see what happened in Paris?’ Or, ‘Did you see what Trump said?’ It’s really neat."
Bald’s favorite areas of history to study are modern European history and modern American history. He said having lived through some of the biggest events of modern history makes it "a little bit more tangible." But he also has a passion for a form of history that is even more personal.
Bald was lucky enough to have a grandmother who lived to be 100 and who could share firsthand stories such as how her family made it through the Great Depression. Digging into his family genealogy an unearthing more of those tales is one of his favorite pastimes.
"It’s interesting to go back and see where you came from," he said. "It’s cool to even go back and trace and see who the first person from your family to come to America was and to follow that back even further."
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Park City High School students have had to adjust to remote learning once more after a spike in coronavirus cases forced the school to temporarily close its doors.