Stevenson High School teacher pushes students to think on global scale
It's 8:05 a.m., and Greg Sherwin is more animated than anyone really should be at that hour of the day.
The Stevenson High School teacher is bouncing around his classroom as he talks to AP Human Geography students about global immigration trends.
And despite the fact this room full of high school sophomores probably would rather be at home in bed, all eyes are on Sherwin.
He's got them. He's reaching them. He's teaching them.
"The truth is, this is what I was meant to do," Sherwin says during a brief break between classes at the Lincolnshire school. "You have to have passion for students."
Sherwin, 44, has been a teacher for 20 years, the last 17 at Stevenson High.
He began pursuing teaching as a career as an undergrad at DePaul University in Chicago.
"I went to college thinking I was going to get a degree in business," Sherwin said. "I remember sitting in a lecture class in accounting and I wasn't dissenting the information but more how the information was being presented. I was thinking about how I might present the information if I was the professor, and that the delivery of content mattered."
He changed his major to education shortly afterward. While still in college, social studies piqued his interest.
The die was cast.
"I always loved the social studies, particularly geography," Sherwin said. "I took as many geography courses as I could. I also took government, economics and history classes and loved them all."
After earning degrees from DePaul and then Governors State University, Sherwin began his teaching career at Rich Central High School in suburban Olympia Fields before moving to Stevenson.
AP Human Geography became Sherwin's specialty in 2001 after the class was created by the College Board and offered at Stevenson.
The subject of his class grows more important every day.
"One of the things we've learned post-September 11 is that our borders no longer isolate ourselves," Sherwin said. "What we're learning in an era of globalization is that we're all connected to one another. So, in this era, human geography is an important thing."
Sherwin has co-authored two AP Human Geography books -- a textbook and a study guide.
But it's the classroom where Sherwin really shines.
He challenges his students to tackle material usually handled in college lecture halls. But he doesn't just shove them into the void. He encourages them and he coaxes them, pushing them to make connections.
And the students respond.
They tell Sherwin that Europeans left that continent for America in the 1860s because there were too many people and not enough jobs back home.
They tell him the NFL's Minnesota Vikings are proof Scandinavians settled in Minnesota.
They tell him immigration dipped in the 1930s because of the Great Depression, and then again the following decade because of World War II.
Sherwin enthusiastically commends his students when they make connections like these. And the students appreciate it.
"He makes the class really fun," sophomore Joseph Yun said after one lesson. "It's a good class to start off the day."
Sophomore Lexi Puritz summed up Sherwin's approach in two words.
"He's awesome," she said. "You can tell he loves what he does. He comes to school excited every day and ready to teach us."
This past October, Sherwin was named the winner of the Teach and Inspire Award from the Buffalo Grove Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce and Buffalo Grove Bank and Trust.
He was nominated for the prize by Hannah Schacter, a 2013 Stevenson graduate who praised Sherwin's ability to make students eager to learn and to open teens' minds to a global perspective.
Could any teacher ask for greater praise?
"The best compliment that I always get from students is, 'When I'm paying attention to the news, I understand it now,'" Sherwin said. "Their world view expands exponentially."