“We are a Family”: A Valentine’s Day Special Featuring Daniel Valentine


Valentine has taught at SPFHS for 17 years. He previously went to Rutgers University.

Keira Baerson, Feature Editor

Daniel Valentine is a Global Perspectives and Philosophy teacher at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. His positive attitude and mastery in engaging students make his classes interesting and exciting for all.  

What inspired you to become a teacher? 

I always tell everyone it was the family business. My mom was a teacher, my dad was certified to teach [and] my aunt and uncle were both educators. In my high school, I was fortunate to learn from some really incredible teachers. I shared this [with my global class] when we did an assignment about careers, and I said that for me it was the family business. I went into teaching because that’s what I was familiar with [and] I am passionate about it. 


What experience do you have prior to teaching at SPFHS? 

I did my student teaching at East Brunswick High School and I taught the U.S. History course there. But in terms of teaching, that’s it. I got hired as a long term substitute; an eighth grade teacher at Terrill retired early before the end of the school year. Then I graduated and I was hired to work full time in the district. They moved me to high school because I had a background in geography. They were looking at redoing the curriculum and they wanted a lot of diversity [and] to be able to comment on that. I brought a unique voice to the department because of my background in geography. 


What is one of your favorite memories that you have of teaching? 

I have made such incredible friendships here. In my second year teaching, a group of social studies teachers all got together and we went on a cruise to the Bahamas. To me, that exemplifies [these friendships]. We are a family and Scotch Plains is my second home. I love the students here, I love the people that I get to work with [and] I love the administrators that I have. 


What is your favorite class to teach and why? 

My favorite class is absolutely Global Perspectives. I was really fortunate that I got to work with a group of teachers to develop the curriculum for the Global Perspectives class. I think it’s a really valuable and important class, and it’s a lot of fun to teach. I love being able to know that things I’m working with my students on are things that are really happening in the world. 


How do you encourage students to participate in your classes? 

I think it comes down to making sure that the things that [students are] working on are interesting. There’s a variety of tools that you use to try and do that and one of the ways is just making sure that students feel comfortable [and] that their opinions are going to be respected. I try as often as I can to never use the word no in class. If a student gives a perspective [that I don’t agree with], instead of saying no or that’s wrong, I try to get the student to elaborate on what their thinking is. 


What advice would you give to a student who is taking one of your classes? 

Global Perspectives is literally a class about the entire world. You have to take a moment and make sure that thing you’re investigating or researching is something [you are] interested and passionate about. The class has a lot of opportunities for choice and not to say that every single thing we’re going to do is interesting to a 17 year old. But at the same time, try to take a moment to sit back and say I’m not really interested in how a person gets elected, but I am interested in how this particular decision impacts business. 


How do you balance all of your responsibilities? 

This is my 17th year teaching [and] I think time has helped me understand pacing and being able to figure out what things are most important. For me, my first and foremost job is making sure that the lesson I’m going to be delivering that day is engaging. Some of the other stuff can fall into place as it goes along.