Chester Teacher Plans on Bringing Experiences in Prestigious Supreme Court Summer Institute Back to her Classroom

By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer

In early June, Victoria Ade, a history and social studies teacher at West Morris Central High School, attended the prestigious Supreme Court Summer Institute in Washington, D.C.–a six-day teacher professional development program that focuses on improving teaching practices as they relate to the United States Supreme Court. Ade returned from the experience with a wealth of information she is now ready to give her students. 


The program itself, which provides educators from across the country with in-depth looks into how the Supreme Court functions, operates under the guidance of Supreme Court experts, authors and journalists, and attorneys, each of whom give the participating teachers an inside understanding of how the Court selects and decides its cases, as well as what it feels like to argue before the storied bench itself. 


For years, Ade has worked with materials from Street Law, an educational company that supplements social studies and history teachers across the country with nuanced lessons in law and civics. On a routine scan of the website for classroom materials, she noticed that the Supreme Court Summer Institute was taking applications for the 2022 session. She decided to give it a shot.


“It was a very lengthy process,” she recalls. “I had to write a great deal myself, and I had to get my supervisor to write a letter of recommendation for me.”


Her first application was rejected, but then there was an opening and she was admitted. 

In Washington, Ade stayed in Thomas Circle, and every day as a participant in the Summer Institute, from 8:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening, got a chance to engage with different experts on the world that is the U.S. Supreme Court. From discussions to lectures to moot court sessions to videos, the experience was enriching beyond Ade’s initial expectations, and reaffirmed her own creativity in bringing in fresh and relevant subject matter to her own classroom at West Morris Central High School. 


“In my classroom this upcoming year, I’ll be trying out a moot court,” says Ade. “Specifically, in my US I class, I’ll be pulling in some cases that’ll allow us to discuss the constitution in depth.” 

Ade says that her methods in the classroom, especially those where she calls on students to articulate their thoughts on what is going on in the text, never fails to bring out the best in them. They remain engaged in the lesson, and she feels that introducing something as participatory as a moot court–where classrooms will be divided up on a given issue and each side will argue on behalf of a given point of view–will only add to the students’ interest in the subject matter. 


“I really love the idea of exposing my students to things that they wouldn’t otherwise have any idea about,” says Ade, referring to the courses and materials she covers, which include not just US I and II, but sociology, and American legal systems. “I love each of these subjects because of how they open doors for students to have meaningful discussions about contemporary issues. It’s a pleasure for me as their teacher to help usher them into a place where they can have these discussions with each other, and to have them conduct a kind of civil discourse hard to find in many adults today.”

Reflecting on who her historical inspirations are, Ade cites Abraham Lincoln for the strength of character it took to prevent the full breaking up of a nation that at the time of his presidency was headed straight for permanent division. She also cites the late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a profound influence on her life both as a person and professional. 


“A lot of what I do is geared not only on the short-term goal of teaching my students something they’ll hopefully remember past the summer,” she says, “but on making them better citizens overall. The kids push me to come prepared each day, to keep learning and to keep doing better. I only wish I had more time with them, because in this specific field, there really is so much to learn all of the time. There is no room at all for stagnation, and a common theme in my courses is the need to grasp and tackle modern, up-to-date issues and understand them at a deeper level with the historical issues that preceded it.”


Ade points to sociology as one of her favorite courses to teach in particular.


“I couldn’t imagine not teaching it,” she notes. “I was given the course when I started teaching at West Morris Central High School. The subject’s main thrust is to come up with an answer for why we are the way we are, and how individuals can work to change society for the better.” 


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