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Best High School Teacher 

Bill Pratt at Berkeley High School

It's an all-too-common misconception that high school can either be substantive or interesting — never both. But Bill Pratt is one teacher who's figured out how to do it right. "There's a whole new way of thinking about rigor," he says. "I genuinely believe that the deep ideas and the essential questions and dilemmas of any discipline can be taught in a meaningful and accessible way to students of any level." Pratt, who has been teaching history in Berkeley High's Communication Arts and Sciences program for more than a decade, encourages his students to understand history as a living, breathing thing by assigning projects that engage a variety of different learning styles and value critical thinking, creativity, and analysis over rote memorization. So instead of asking kids to spit out as many facts and dates as they possibly can on a multiple-choice test, he'll assign an illustrated analogy comparing the 1920s and the 1930s, or a debate role-play about whether the United States should have dropped the atomic bomb during World War II. What's more, he's managed the same balancing act in his relationships with students, making himself relatable and accessible — by staying late after school to help them with projects, by keeping in touch with alumni though Facebook, by burning CDs of his beloved Clash for particularly punk-obsessed pupils — without sacrificing any of his command of the classroom. With teachers like Pratt around, we'll never have to choose between rigor and relevance.

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