After Years Running in D.C., Anthony Belber Teaches Its History

Anthony Belber works at his desk in the high school history office. Photo by Sawyer Thompson.

This past August, Anthony Belber, a longtime GDS third-grade teacher, switched over to the high school as a part-time ninth-grade history teacher. Belber had never taught high school students in the classroom before, but he has coached cross country and winter track at the high school for 23 years and spring track for 25. He currently teaches two periods of ninth-grade history, which focuses on Washington, D.C.  

Of the 25 years he taught third grade, he co-taught for 16 years with Laura Howell, who left her teaching job at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Rather than find a new teaching partner or teach full-time without one, he said, he looked for a part-time job at GDS.

“Because I coach three seasons a year with track and cross country and indoor track, I don’t have a lot of time to be a full-time classroom teacher, and I was interested in the part-time position,” he told the Bit. “The thing I’ve always been most passionate about is D.C. history.”

In his new role, Belber has already noticed that the pace in the ninth grade is “much more relaxed” than third grade, and that he doesn’t feel like he is “on the go all the time.” 

He said he has, however, found it harder to tell if freshmen in his class are bored. He said that having one period a day with students makes it harder to get to know them as individuals, and he is “missing that personal connection” he had with his third graders. 

Belber came to GDS in the fall of 1997. “Since I was a young teenager, I always coached soccer in the summers,” he said, and “I knew that that third grade age was my favorite age of young kids to work with.”

Growing up in D.C., Belber attended Beauvoir for elementary school and then St. Albans for middle and high school. He recalls running around D.C. during soccer and track practices. “I knew very little about GDS when I was growing up in Washington,” he said. 

His first teaching job was at Beauvoir for two years as a teaching intern, he said. After those two years, Belber applied for positions at other schools, and “fell in love” with GDS after being interviewed and visiting the campus. “The whole environment at GDS just felt refreshing and authentic in a way that I hadn’t experienced before,” he said.

Belber said his interest in D.C. history began when he was a third grader at Beauvoir. “I’ve always been fascinated by the questions of the city and how it came to be,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time reading around it, walking around it, running around it and exploring it.” He said he has always been fascinated by Belt Road, previously a country road, now a residential street a few blocks from both GDS and his home. 

Belber has “always been passionate about history,” according to Howell. He said he decided to take the part-time teaching position as  a ninth-grade history teacher because of his desire to share his enthusiasm for history with others. And an added benefit from the transition is that he gets to see members of the cross country and track teams during the school day. 

Belber’s passion for history is reflected in the routes that his cross country team runs for practice. “I’ve been on a number of runs with him where he loves to talk about the history of D.C.,” senior Luke Cohen, a captain of the cross country team, said in an interview. “It’s super cool to be able to go on a run with him and have him tell us about the neighborhood.”

Cohen sang Belber’s praises as a coach. “He spends as much time on the top runners as he does on the last runner,” he said.

Andrew Leopold, a student in his sixth-period D.C. history class, said that in class Belber “often tells us about the tours he’s been on of D.C. on the weekends. I see his passion.”

In an email to the Bit, Belber wrote that Dumbarton Oaks Park, which is now home to running trails, was part of a “fake English countryside” that was designed in 1920. “Now people walk their dogs there having no idea they are moving through a park which was landscaped to appear ‘wild’ 100 years ago,” he wrote.

He also mentioned the historic Ben’s Chilli Bowl, whose owners have sent their children to GDS for multiple generations. “Every student in the school should be required to stop there for a great meal and a better understanding of the city we call home,” he wrote.

Belber said that GDS never leaves his mind, but that doesn’t bother him: “It’s a topic at my dinner table at night. It’s what I do from the time I get home until I go to bed. It doesn’t feel like I’m trying to put it at arm’s length because I enjoy it.”

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