Passing the torch from alum to student

Daniel Willever and other students at the United Nations headquarters
Daniel Willever ’12 and his Ramsey High School students at the United Nations Headquarters. Photo used with permission.

Teachers are force multipliers. They offer knowledge and influence to their students, and the students in turn share these life lessons with family, friends, and so many others throughout the course of their day-to-day interactions.

Gettysburg College alumnus Daniel Willever ’12 understands the considerable impact teachers can have in building a stronger, more just society. He sees this transformation every day—in small but meaningful ways—at Ramsey High School in New Jersey, where he has served as a social studies teacher for the past six years.

In November, Willever’s innovative approach to teaching earned him the coveted Milken Educator Award, which recognizes the most impressive early-to-mid career educators in the country. He is the second Gettysburian to receive the prestigious honor in the last half decade.

Willever receiving $25,000 Milken Educator Award
Willever receives $25,000 for the Milken Educator Award. Photo used with permission.

“My goal is to inspire my students to appreciate and empathize with others, and to challenge them to be curious about lifestyles different from their own,” said Willever, who was a history major and education minor on campus, as well as an active participant in the College’s Civil War Institute and Bullets Marching Band.

Years before Willever would capture the attention of the Milken Family Foundation, he sparked the imagination of Melanie Greenberg ’20. As a high school student in Willever’s Advanced Placement Human Geography class, Greenberg was empowered to look beyond the world she knew, and to connect with the course material on a more personal level. This freedom to explore the subject matter on her own terms left a lasting impression on Greenberg, and it changed the trajectory of her own academic journey.

“Mr. Willever was one of the best teachers I have ever had, and I was his student after only his third year of teaching,” said Greenberg. “I thought to myself during the college search process, if this is the kind of teacher coming out of this school, then this is the college I want to be at.”

She decided to enroll early decision to Gettysburg College.

Melanie Greenberg with Daniel Willever on Gettysburg College's campus
Greenberg and Willever together on the Gettysburg College campus.

Following in the footsteps of Willever, Greenberg majored in history and minored in education, and joined the Bullets Marching Band. But she also charted her own path at Gettysburg—adding a second minor in music; working as a student employee in the band office; serving as a corresponding and recording secretary for Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity composed of women at the collegiate level; and participating in various performance opportunities offered through the Sunderman Conservatory of Music.

Melanie Greenberg performing in the Bullets Marching Band
Greenberg performing in the Bullets Marching Band.

Greenberg’s passion, curiosity, and academic drive made her an ideal candidate for Gettysburg College in Willever’s eyes, and he encouraged her to look in more depth at the school throughout her senior year of high school. Knowing the well-rounded liberal arts education Gettysburg offers, Willever believed Greenberg—an aspiring teacher—would love the college as much as he did.

“I cannot thank Mr. Willever enough for pushing me to my potential as an academic, and as a person and a friend,” said Greenberg. “He has inspired me and made me want to pursue my dreams with more confidence than I ever thought I had.”

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By Eve Mulleady ’22
Posted: 04/21/20