1 in 2000: Jamie Rinaldi, “driven by principle”

by Sanjana Deshpande, Features Editor
photo illustration by Amanda Fu

For New Media Communities (NMC) history teacher Jamie Rinaldi, the ability to connect the past and the present in a classroom has always been fascinating. Teaching such extensive and intense topics to young adults has been the highlight of his career as an educator.

“To me, history is the ultimate pursuit to think about all that we as a civilization have done, to come to terms with it, and to try to find some sustainable path forward,” he said. “I love to teach it because anything can be brought to the table in a history classroom, and that level of unpredictability continues to energize and excite me.”

Rinaldi is one of the founders of the NMC program, which is a “linked” course — a two-subject course where English and history lessons are connected. In its creation, the goal was to modernize the ordinary history and English curriculums by integrating various forms of resources such as informational videos and podcasts into lessons. Unlike traditional English and history courses, NMC assesses understanding through media literacy skills and filmmaking projects rather than standard essays and tests. Rinaldi said that his goal is for students to be able to apply what they learn in the program to their everyday lives.

“We’re hoping to have students see their academic work is something beyond just the teacher prescribed curriculum, and instead it’s something that they have control over,” he said. “The goal for NMC is to create a learning model that transcends some of the traditional notions of what the classroom is.”

Senior Jada Pierre, who has been a member of NMC for two years, said that the program’s unique organization has given her the freedom to study history on a personal level.

“The class is really interesting because it’s relating things to my own life unlike other history classes. It’s very modern, which is something that I’ve never had a class do,” she said. 

Co-founder of NMC and English teacher David Weintraub said that Rinaldi’s aspirations greatly shaped the program into what it is today.

“Mr. Rinaldi was always the person in my mind who I knew could create and realize this vision. His contributions are what made the program a reality,” he said. “He came into the collaboration and he made it his own, and it was with his participation that the program became a reality.”

History teacher Jonathan Greiner said that NMC is one of many of Rinaldi’s contributions to South’s history department.

“It’s hard to fully appreciate him,” he said. “He steers everyone into calmer waters every time he participates in a conversation or helps plan curriculum or anything along those lines. He has made everybody who comes into contact with the history department better.”

In addition to his position as one of the history department’s most respected teachers, Rinaldi is also an active member of the Newton Teachers Association (NTA). He takes pride in the organization’s efforts.

“I was attracted to teaching because it was a unionized profession,” he said. “I knew that there would be a way to pursue activism and social justice and economic justice through educator unionism, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to pursue those passions through the NTA […] It’s been a privilege to be part of the board.”

Weintraub said that Rinaldi’s lessons are structured around his desire to fix the mistakes that our society has made in the past, which is pivotal for young adults who are on their way to becoming full fledged members of society.

“He has a vision for what students need to learn in school in order to become active, participatory citizens in this current political climate,” he said. “His students absolutely admire him in every way […] that’s really all the evidence that you need to show that he is somebody who is driven by principle, and is unbeatable in terms of his practice.”

Senior Anais Mobarak said Rinaldi’s lessons have helped her to become a more thoughtful individual both in the classroom and in her everyday life as a young adult.

“He’s one of the best teachers at Newton South. He clearly cares about all of his students. He’s so supportive, and you can have a conversation with him about anything,” she said. “He’s thoughtful, an amazing teacher, and all teachers should strive to be like him.”