Pitman High School government teacher Isaac Farhadian is known for going above and beyond when it comes to teaching his students about civic engagement, and his continued efforts during the pandemic this year recently earned him recognition as one of five 2021 Champion of Civics awardees from across the state.
The Champion of Civics award is co-sponsored by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond as a way to recognize outstanding leaders and educators throughout California for their commitment to civics education inside and outside the classroom.
Farhadian facilitated Pitman’s first-ever mock election in a virtual format last fall, using students’ time at home during an election year to help educate them on propositions, candidates and more. Ultimately, over 830 students voted in the mock election — and many learned a thing or two they may not have known before.
“I believe there’s a huge importance in understanding how our government works and having kids be involved in the democratic process. It gives them an outlet so they have the opportunity to share their opinions, discuss topics and debate with each other,” Farhadian said. “Yes, it was a mock election, but it helps them think about the issues and research the issues so that they can vote however their heart tells them without going in there blindfolded.”
Farhadian also serves as the adviser of Pitman’s award-winning Junior State of America chapter, which hosted a virtual “election-con” in 2020 and also wrote letters to Congressman Josh Harder, who later met with the group via Zoom to read through their questions and answer them.
“It’s about making sure students have the opportunity to speak up and say how they feel, no matter what their stance is, without fear of being ridiculed or silenced."Pitman High School government teacher Isaac Farhadian
“It’s about making sure students have the opportunity to speak up and say how they feel, no matter what their stance is, without fear of being ridiculed or silenced,” Farhadian said. “It’s an open venue here.”
Farhadian was one of five who were honored as 2021 Champions of Civics during a virtual ceremony. He also was told he had won the award over Zoom over spring break, he said, when Pitman’s vice principal John Acha surprised him with a video conference which included Cantil-Sakauye. The honor came on the heels of Pitman’s recognition as one of 32 California schools to be named recipients of the 2021 Civic Learning Award of Merit.
“It’s a great honor,” Farhadian said. “When they first announced it to me, I was surprised and was at a loss for words...I’m very thankful for it because this past year was a different year and a difficult year. For me personally, this award is a great honor and it makes me want to do an even better job than what I'm doing.”