Dale Pluciennik: "Depending on the time period, I try and put my students back in time ... as if they were there."
Dale Pluciennik has always been fascinated by history, from ancient to modern times. That’s why he enjoys teaching U.S. history at San Marcos High School and also serving as a UC San Diego Extension instructor in “Culture and Inclusion” and “U.S. Constitution Preparation Course and Examination.”
A San Diego State University history graduate – with an emphasis on Colonial Latin America, North America and European Imperialism – Pluciennik has taught at the K-12 level as a substitute teacher and led graduate seminars at SDSU. He completed his prerequisite teaching courses at UC San Diego Extension, “which I’m grateful for because it helped me get my current job.”
Q: What fascinates you most about learning and teaching history?
A: For me, it’s the cultural interaction between peoples. My challenge as a teacher, which I love doing, is just, how do I make history come to life? Depending on the time period, I try to put my students back in time, giving them a more empathetic, relevant approach, as if they were there.
Q: How do you do that?
A: Well, I’m pretty energetic in the classroom, and they seem to connect to that. Like the old saying goes, you’re 50 percent educator and 50 percent entertainer, especially in high school. If your students don’t buy into you as a person, they won’t buy into your subject matter, no matter what you say. That’s simply the reality.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
A: Every day, one or more of my students will do and say something that just cracks me up. They’re always trying to keep me apprised of the latest trends in pop culture. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
Q: What’s your family background? Did that influence your interest in history?
A: I was born and raised in Ramona, so I’m one of the few San Diego natives. When I was very young, my maternal grandmother, who was from Canada, told me stories about her family’s history. That’s what first got me interested in history. And my father was a Polish refugee from Germany who was born in a forced labor camp. Last summer, he took my brother and I back to where he was born – in the small German town of Gehofen – and told us stories of his childhood. That was our living history lesson.
Q: If you could go back in time, what period of history would you like to live in?
A: You know, I have to admit that I’m one of those guys who hates Renaissance Faires, for example. Compared to us, they really had it pretty bad back then. I like living in the here and now. For one thing, I have immediate access to learning about history in my smart-phone device. That’s one big advantage we have over previous cultures.
Q: These appear to be difficult times for teachers. Do you feel that way?
A: With all the changes in curriculum and everything else, I still feel as I did when I started at San Marcos High School. Good teaching is good teaching. The key is being able to connect with your students. I hope to teach well into my 60s, about 27 years from now.