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History Alumni Spotlight: Manny Brito '18

From Salem State's History Department to Collins Middle School history teacher

What is your current job and responsibilities? 

I currently teach seventh grade Social Studies at Collins Middle School in Salem with a focus on ancient civilizations. My responsibilities include traditional tasks such as creating and administering lesson plans, but a significant part of the job is to help students develop social and emotional skills. In addition, I coach girls softball and boys basketball.

What encouraged you to pursue this career?

My grandmother was a teacher in the Dominican Republic. Our family comes from a small town called Bani, a place where my grandmother was respected and admired for her teaching. She taught many subjects but had a special fondness for Social Studies.  Being Amparo Pimentel’s grandson meant that I held the same respect and admiration. Like my grandmother, I was naturally curious about how various people, places, and ideas evolved over time. Learning about history is like uncovering a mystery or solving a complicated crime.

What skills did you learn as a history major and how did your time at Salem State prepare you for life after graduation?

I succeeded academically at Salem State by traditional metrics like grades and averages, but these do not truly capture what I learned.  My professors at SSU encouraged and showed me how to identify sources and ask good questions. I also learned to be patient with sources, which often contradict one another or can be interpreted in multiple ways. These are skills that I often teach my students albeit at a smaller scale. I also learned through the various personalities of the professors that there was no single model of pedagogy and that good teaching comes through those who are genuine to their true selves. 

Was there a particular faculty member or class that had a lasting impact on you?

It is difficult to pinpoint one particular faculty member that had a lasting impact just because there were so many. Bethany Jay, Aviva Chomsky, and Michelle Louro all played a big role in my success. Although I never had Brad Austin as an instructor, his sage advice left a profound impression on me. History teachers who are people of color are still a minority, which can be intimidating, but professor Austin convinced me of its value.  He showed me how my unique experience and perspective could deepen my pedagogy. I think the thing I loved about professor Austin is that he was able to keep it real. He always said what I needed to hear. While he praised and encouraged me he would still call me out when I needed to perform better.

What advice would you provide to an incoming history major at Salem State? 

I would advise any and all incoming history majors to find and learn how to use resources. There are about a million resources that SSU offers but students don’t always know they exist let alone find them. Look for faculty members that are passionate about helping you. This does not necessarily have to be your official advisor. I can think of at least three occasions where I went to professor Chomsky for help in classes that she was not even teaching. The professors in the history department at SSU truly care about student success. Students ought to take advantage of that.

Outside of a professional career, what has history taught you about life and the world? 

History has taught me that the world is an expansive place, full of complicated people, whose brains are full of complicated ideas, unfortunately, neither the world nor the people in it are always aware of these complications. Many of the biggest conflicts in history come from people not understanding the perspectives of others. Knowing this, I try to find out as much as I can about my students’ personal and family histories

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