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John Codega's story

A social studies teacher's Street Law story

Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

John Codega

Deliberating in a Democracy challenges students in U.S. classrooms around the country to tackle current civic issues with partner schools in Central and Eastern European countries through classroom deliberation, videoconferences, and online discussion boards.

John Codega is a third year social studies teacher at A.C. Flora High School — a diverse urban school in Columbia, South Carolina.  He currently teaches world geography, world history, and information technology in a global society.   In 2007, he began participating in the Deliberating in a Democracy program, which connects U.S. and Central/Eastern European classrooms to engage students in deliberations about controversial issues. 

The program has made me a better teacher

A career in education became a goal of mine my freshman year of high school, when Mr. Zibelli’s world history class made the subject come alive for me.  It was his class that developed my passion for history and a desire to inspire young people.

In 2007, I was invited to participate in the Deliberating in a Democracy program by a colleague who was extremely enthusiastic about the amazing professional development opportunities and effective teaching tools available to participants.  Fortunately for me, there was room in the program for a new teacher and I was able to accept a spot among a group of master teachers from my school district.

While I have only participated in the Deliberation in a Democracy program for two years, I can unequivocally say that the program has made me a better teacher.  I have learned a great deal about high-quality instruction, not only from the professional development opportunities provided by program staff, but also the lesson plans and resources on the website that are available to all educators, not just those participating in the program.

Students are excited and engaged

From the perspective of my students, Deliberating in a Democracy has been one of the most popular activities in my classroom.  Students are excited and engaged because they get to interact not only with one another, but also with peers from Kaluga, Russia, and Skopje, Macedonia. 

The international aspect of this program is key.  Too often, students think that America is the only democracy in the world or that we are the only model for a democratic government.  After online discussions with teenagers from Central and Eastern Europe, students get a better understanding of the universal principles of democracy and the many variations of democratic governments around the world.  Students also enjoy the chance to grapple with real world issues that directly affect them and their peers—like the regulation of violent video games or managing climate change.

Street Law, Inc. is providing great teaching and learning opportunities to educators and students.  The professional development and resources made available for me through Street Law have had a significant impact on my teaching practices and improved the understanding of democracy for my students.  I am passionate about the work that Street Law, Inc. is doing and hope to see programs like Deliberating in a Democracy expanded to other classrooms around the country. 

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