By Femi Matti
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – What makes a fine educator? Is it their credentials? Their experience in the field? Or maybe their passion to enrich their students’ lives with knowledge? Can any one of these factors be more prolific than the other? Or is it all these traits rolled into one person that makes a fine educator? It must be the latter.
All of theses things can be easily found in one man who roams the hallways of Blackwood Campus of Camden County College. This man is Dr. John L. Pesda.
Pesda, the director of the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility at Camden County College, was born in Northeastern Pennsylvania and received his bachelor of science degree in history and secondary education from Bloomsburg State University and his master of arts degree in history and doctoral degree in history and economics from Kent State University.
From the time Pesda was in elementary school he possessed an interest in history and social studies which helped him find his area of specialization in Russian economic history. “My interest in Russian history comes from the fact that my grandfather served in the Russian army although he was not Russian but Lithuanian. He often talked to my father about his life in Europe and as a little a boy I did not really understand very much of it but it did peak my interest in it. Therefore when I went to graduate school I decided this was something I wanted to pursue,” says Pesda.
Pesda also had his own weekly regional cable television show for 15 years, called New Jersey Headlines. “Primarily it was about local politics and other political and social issues that were of interest to the South Jersey community,” says Pesda.
In 1985 a New Jersey Supreme Court decision known as the Abbott Decision allocated more funds to schools based upon social economic conditions in the communities, or Abbott communities. With all the controversy surrounding the recent budget cuts to education made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Pesda shares his insight on the governor’s decision.
Christie cut funding to Abbott districts with the argument that tens of millions of dollars are ported to Abbott districts without any appreciable gains. “He’s arguing that you cannot throw money at problems and hope they go away,” says Pesda. “Yet I do not really see an alternative to this.” Pesda argues that especially in Abbott communities a lot of social problems need to be overcome as well as problems where English isn’t the primary language and also the dropout rates found in our communities. “Not to say that the problems don’t have to be solved but we need better thinkers on how to solve those problems and we’ve tried a number of things without great success.”
“He’s always doing new things, always coming up with great ideas for the community, always something different,” says Barbara Palmer, the project coordinator for the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility.