Social studies teacher Slaven brings passion to Midtown


Shalin Bhatia

Slaven delivers a lecture in his AP US History class about multiple choice strategies.

Shalin Bhatia

Looking around at students fully engaged in fun activities, and himself experiencing a great time with fellow teachers, on an atypical day outside the classroom at Democracy Fest, social studies teacher Jason Slaven knew this was just the beginning of a special time at Midtown.

Slaven started his teaching career at Stockbridge High School in Henry County in 2016, and in the summer of 2018, moved to Queens, NY, before moving back to Atlanta in 2020. Now, at Midtown, he teaches AP US History, US History and Government.

“I grew up here in Atlanta and I’ve spent my entire life here,” Slaven said. “This [move] was before we had our first kid, and my wife and I had just married. We just wanted to try something different because my wife is also from Atlanta. I had actually never even visited New York City before we made the decision to move up there. My first visit was going to look at apartments to rent. We just wanted to challenge ourselves.”

In New York, Slaven worked at a large community school where he taught Economics, US History, World History and Government. He described himself as a “band-aid teacher” where he would teach whatever was needed. Slaven also worked with behavioral and English-speaking skills, as many of the students he taught in Queens were immigrants.

“I didn’t go to college for [English literacy],” Slaven said. “So, I definitely felt out of my element, but it was an interesting experience. I wouldn’t say I had the best time doing it because I love history and teaching history, and I don’t speak any other languages. So, it was difficult for me to try to connect to students who I had such a significant language barrier with.”

Slaven moved back to Atlanta in the summer of 2020 due to New York’s expensive rent to begin teaching at Carver High School.

“It was a pretty quick turnaround, but I had already had the job locked down,” Slaven said. “They had hired me at the end of May before the school year had really let out. I’d already met everybody on Zoom, and just hit the ground running.”

Slaven taught AP US History at Carver, and said he loved the Carver community and felt supported by the administration. He came across Midtown through the news that former social studies teacher Lee Pope was retiring last year.

“I’ve always looked at Midtown as being the gold standard for urban education just because of where it is and the diverse population,” Slaven said. “I’ve only ever heard incredible things from teachers, parents and folks that have had experiences at Midtown. So, when I was in education, whenever I pictured a school that I wanted to work at, it was Midtown; but, teaching positions here don’t open up that often. Then, last year, I saw that Lee Pope [former AP US History teacher] was retiring from Midtown, and I jumped on the opening.”

In Slaven’s interview for the position, one of the people in the interview was social studies teacher Kelly Wren. She was very impressed with Slaven and his preparation.

“He knew the AP level skill, content, curriculum and rigor, and he had excellent teaching strategies that he highlighted in the interview,” Wren said. “I was really impressed by his writing strategies of peer review and modeling using the college samples. He highlighted a lot of ways that he helps students identify the various components of the rubric, and he had so many specific strategies for helping students hone in on those rubric skills.”

Wren believes Slaven has demonstrated how he truly is passionate about the work he is doing. In fact, Slaven himself decided to teach US History to students due to his natural interest in the subject.

“I wanted to find a humanities subject where it’s more focused on discussion and personal perspective, and teaching US History was a great option for that,” Slaven said. “I’ve always been very interested in politics and how our understanding of the history of our country has really changed over time.”

The passion Slaven expresses for his work is represented by what his students think of him. Junior Jameson Knight, a student in Slaven’s AP US History, enjoys Slaven’s fun and interactive teaching style.

“He is a really dynamic teacher who tries to connect to his students, even having conversations throughout the class about what they had for breakfast or dinner,” Knight said. “I also like his discussions, as I personally don’t like lectures.”

Similar to Knight, junior Nate Polk, who is in Slaven’s US History class this year, said he likes Slaven’s easygoing teaching style.

“He has a slideshow, so you can learn the content well,” Polk said. “Sometimes, at the end, he’ll have a mini-quiz to see if you understood the material. I like his teaching style.”

Slaven says in his short time at Midtown, he has appreciated the level of attention from students and the school’s benevolent atmosphere. 

“I know that we’ve had a lot of weird stuff happening already this school year, but I’ve truly really loved it,” Slaven said. “I feel more supported here than I have at any other school that I’ve worked at. Everyone has been so nice, so welcoming and so supportive. Students have created this community here, and I’m just trying to fit in and play my role.”