In this class, the student is the teacher. Seriously.
Anthony Trusso, a Florham Campus junior, is teaching a class called "Brother to Brother: A Military History of the Civil War," for the Florham Institute of Lifelong Learning at FDU. (Photos by Dan Landau)
By Dan Landau
A group of seniors files into the classroom and sits down while the teacher queues up his slides on a laptop. He begins his presentation, lecturing with the knowledge and ability of an experienced professor, on the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1864 — a series of key battles in the American Civil War.
The only unusual thing is the teacher, Anthony Trusso, is a Florham Campus junior, and the seniors taking the class are senior citizens.
Trusso, 21, is an honors student, double majoring in political science and history. This spring, aside from his undergraduate studies, he is teaching a popular class on Civil War military history for FDU’s Florham Institute of Lifelong Learning (FILL), a program that offers classes on campus for local seniors.
For Trusso, the class was a way to exercise his passion for history and help integrate the FILL students with the traditionally aged undergraduate student population.
“There are several FILL students involved with the honors program and I wanted to expand their involvement with the entire student population. They have a lot to offer, as they are individuals who already have a wide range of experience and can give advice and career knowledge,” says Trusso.
Above: In his six-week class, Anthony Trusso covers the major battles of the Civil War, giving each year of the war, one week of class time.
Trusso’s interest in history goes back as far as he can remember and has taken him all over the East Coast as a historical reenactor with the 61st NY Regiment, a Civil War living history group. He’s also interned with the National Park Service at two Civil War battlefields-turned-National-Parks: Harpers Ferry and Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania.
He clearly loves history — even volunteering to teach this class for free. His passion for history comes through in his lectures as he paints vivid pictures with rich descriptors of the people and places he talks about (one general who couldn’t move his army fast enough was labeled as “having a case of the ‘slows’”) and shares interesting asides on the people referenced. For example, Confederate general John Brown Gordon is always photographed facing to the right because during the Battle of Antietam, he caught a bullet in his left cheek and was self-conscious about the scarring.
Trusso’s students enjoy the class as much as he does and unanimously give him rave reviews. “He is enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about the material,” says Madison resident, Joe Wajszcuk, 69. “I did get something on him once though — he had a list of generals on the screen and I asked him which were West Pointers and he stumbled on that a little bit.”
Bill Kenny, 82, of Florham Park, countered Wajszcuk, saying “it’s amazing how Trusso remembers all the generals’ names.” Kenny signed up for the class because “the Civil War was something I knew little about. I’m learning about it, but I will never remember the names of all the generals.”
Dr. Roger Kane, a student in the class and neuroscience instructor for FILL, says of Trusso, “He puts a lot into the class and has the potential to be a great teacher — actually, he already is!”
While not planning for a teaching career, Trusso will undoubtedly use his educational skills in the future. Especially, if he can land his dream job after graduating: being a park ranger for the National Park Service at a Civil War battlefield.
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