By Steve Sears
Denville’s Peter Zablocki and Mount Olive’s Thomas Reszka, who originally met as students and started talking over 20 years ago at William Paterson University, are now verbalizing some pretty interesting stuff via a unique podcast.
Starting in early August 2020, the duo has hosted ten, weekly, hour-long “History Teachers Talking” episodes. Zablocki explains the foundation. “We’ve always talked about starting a podcast. We said, ‘You know what? It’s corona(virus)…’ and we just needed an outlet, especially since we couldn’t teach that much in a traditional sense. It’s almost like we missed the history banter that we would probably have in the class.”
“With everything going on, we said, ‘Let’s just do it,’” adds Reszka.
“History Teachers Talking” discussions center on history, politics, education, and pop culture. Zablocki has found that many former and current students listen in, and the goal was to be broad in scope while not ignoring the nearness of home.
“That was the goal,” says Reszka. “What we would do in the classroom is have banter back and forth; that’s where sometimes you get some of the best conversation.”
Zablocki adds, “In the classroom we form a rapport, a good relationship with our students, oftentimes from not just the content, especially when a student has a question. And we don’t always have the time in the classroom to get into these particulars or what you would call fun topics, but it does happen.”
That banter and resulting topics thereof have been discussed on the podcast, including George Washington, the tumultuous year of 1968, and the 1916 Manasquan shark attacks. “That’s the story of us as a nation, and that’s the story of us as people,” says Reszka. “Like the shark attacks in New Jersey and Jaws, which is a major pop icon.”
It’s understanding the past as well as comprehending what’s currently occurring and how things connect. “I very much concur with that,” says Zablocki, agreeing with Reszka’s prior comment. “I always kind of looked at history as a bunch of facts.” He likens those facts to building blocks and uses the following analogy with his students. “Unless someone takes those facts, that are just blocks, and puts meaning and does something with them, they’re kind of boring blocks. The way I look at history is taking the facts and putting them in the context and connecting them, and as Tom was saying, connecting the past and present, connecting the social aspects with the political and economic aspects in the present, to kind of form meaning to what our word is about.”
“That was kind of the impetus for this podcast.”
A bio on each, who have both been teachers for 16 years. Zablocki is currently at Kinnelon High School, and is Vice-President of the Denville Historical Society, Museum, and Research Center. He teaches courses in World History, Military History, Sociology, Advanced Placement United States History I and II, Advanced Placement Seminar and Research, and International Baccalaureate High Level History- America and the World. He is also an author of three books: Denville Goes to War: Denville’s Story of World War I, in addition to the forthcoming true crime history titled Denville 13: Murder, Redemption and Forgiveness in Small Town New Jersey due out in February of 2021, and Denville in World War II, coming out in May of 2021, both published by The History Press. Zablocki also contributes a monthly column of local history to Denville Life. Reszka’s specialties include World History, Ancient Civilization, World Cultures, Western Civilization, United States History I and II, Sociology, Law and Justice, Advanced Placement Government and Civics, and Advanced Placement United States History. He is also an administrator of the Mount Olive school district’s history department, and as well oversees the curriculum development and teaching of over thirty Middle School and High School teachers.
The interesting thing: there is no true preparation on the part of the hosts, just a little bit of research. Per Zablocki, when the recorder is turned on, he and Reszka are talking about the topics for the first time. “We don’t want to be scripted,” he says of he and his partner, who on their jobs deal often with strictly prepared and uniform lesson plans. This is laid back conversation. “This isn’t a job for us,” he continues. “It’s fun; an escape somewhat. It creates an outlet for our students, family members, and everyone that’s interested.”
To listen to the “History Teachers Talking” podcast, visit www.historyteacherstalkingpodcast.com.