San Ramon Valley High School, 2011 Winner

Students who walk into Jesse Hansen’s history classes at San Ramon Valley High School never quite know what to expect.  One day, their desks might be arranged into opposing rows to simulate trenches, so students can get a feel for combat while they discuss the fighting in World War One.  Another day, Mr. Hansen might be silent while students decipher his instructions on the board to create a working classroom government.  Or… Mr. Hansen might show up in period costume as he hosts a debate about the French Enlightenment Era.

Jesse Hansen remembers when he was in high school and sometimes classes seemed as long as the Hundred Year War.  He never wants his history classes to be that way. He says a dead moment where students look bored is intolerable. He wants his classes to be fresh, interesting and worthwhile – all 180 days of the school year. Every day – no exceptions.

That’s why Mr. Hansen brings in war veterans to talk with his class. That’s why he takes his pupils on field trips to museums. That’s why he finds ways to inspire struggling students… and why he finds avenues to challenge bright students.

Jesse Hansen believes in creating an “intellectual relationship” with his students. He finds ways to make history lessons relevant to his classes. He finds the human drama that makes history come alive. As he says, “Anything that is explained well is interesting.”

That might be why students in his Advancement Placement classes have enjoyed a 100 percent pass rate on the AP exam over the last three years.  More than anything, however, in Mr. Hansen’s class, students enjoy history.