Unsung Hero #284

Danielle Dobin wears many hats in Westport. One that most folks never see is her volunteer efforts helping Staples High School’s “We the People” team prepare for state and national competitions.

From her front row seat, she nominated social studies teacher Suzanne Kammerman as this week’s Unsung Hero. Danielle writes:

After placing 2nd in Connecticut and earning a spot at the national competition, Staples’ “We the People” team just returned from a trip to Virginia and Washington.

Suzanne Kammerman

[NOTE: “We the People” is part of the Advanced Placement Politics & Government curriculum. Kammerman took the course more than 25 years ago as a Shelton High School student. It made such an impact, she helped introduce the course at Staples.

[It’s a huge commitment outside of class. Students spend hours forming teams, researching questions, developing answers, then arguing them in front of judges who are professors and constitutional experts. Those who take the course are passionate about government — and Kammerman stokes that fire.

[There are 6 units of questions, on topics like political philosophy, theory and the Federalist Papers. Specific examples include “Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System” and “What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the 21st Century?”

[Working in groups of 3 or 4, students explore 3 questions each, in astonishing depth. Using critical analysis skills, they respond in writing to all 3 questions. They then respond to judges’ questions — without notes.]

While Virginia’s Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies from Richmond placed 1st in the country overall, the Unit 1 team from Staples — juniors Emerson Briggs, Alyssa Lee and Dylan Fiore — earned the highest recognition for their study of the philosophical foundations of America’s founding documents and institutions.

The Unit 1 national winners (from left): Emerson Briggs, Alyssa Lee, Dylan Fiore. (Photo/Danielle Dobin)

All of the “We the People” students are committed to excellence. Ms. Kammerman (affectionately known as Kamm) dedicates endless hours outside of school to prepping, practicing and inspiring her students.  The entire “We the People” program exists in Westport due to her tireless dedication.

Andy Laskin has had 2 sons participate. He says, “I have seen how Kamm magically plants the seeds of legal knowledge, and inspires students not only to learn but to express themselves persuasively. The future is bright for those fortunate students who learn from Suzanne.”

The 2023 We the People team, at the Lincoln Memorial. (Photo/Danielle Dobin)

As one of the many parent mentors (like Andy) she recruited over the years, I want to highlight Kamm’s phenomenal support of her students, and her deep commitment to engaging young people in the study of civics. She is a real hero.

As her Unit 1 students would say: “Kamm truly embodies the classical republican ideal of civic virtue!”

(“06880” is proud to shine a spotlight on Westport’s Unsung Heroes. Please click here to help support this feature, and our work. Thank you!)

5 responses to “Unsung Hero #284

  1. A well deserved honor. As a parent volunteer, I was fortunate to be involved in a prep session for the winning team. These high school students displayed an almost shocking sophistication when it comes to the legal and philosophical underpinnings of our democratic republic, from Socrates to the Federalist Papers. It is so great that our students have this opportunity to immerse themselves the wisdom of our founders, the deep moral and practical questions they debated, the liberal (small L) values they championed and the complex but ingenious architecture of the political system they produced. It was no doubt that nuanced appreciation and depth of understanding that propelled them to victory! Their success is a testament to the quality education dedicated teachers like Ms. Kammerman provide our students everyday.

  2. Andrew Colabella

    The work of Suzanne is beyond amazing.

    I took part in judging with Danielle Dobin, Kristin Schneeman, Joan Gillman and some special guests with the two units.

    These students, all blessed with a gift, tapped into their talent through the hardwork and dedication of Suzanne.

    You could see it and hear it in their timed two minute answers, delivered with ease, nonpartisan, and scholarly backed sources.

    I am so incredibly proud of Emerson, Alyssa, and Dylan. It was not divisive in anyway AND debated BOTH sides. Incredible

  3. Brandi Briggs

    Kamm teaches with passion and excitement-she inspires students every year (including my daughter, Emerson) to become engaged and energized about US government and politics.

    I am so proud of what Emerson, Alyssa, Dylan and the rest of the Staples We The People team achieved this year.

    I also want to say a big thank you to Danielle Dobin who dedicated countless hours to help these teams prepare and succeed on the national level.

  4. Laura B. Johnson

    Congratulations to Trumbull HS for placing eighth in the Top 10 NATIONALLY.

  5. Kamm is deeply devoted to her students and to the civic education. She creates an environment which is so welcoming and encouraging, and allows students to dive deep with their learning. The future looks bright with her student scholars who will engage and lead our civic society.

    Congratulations to Emerson, Alyssa, and Dylon, who are great kids at heart and worked so well as a team. Congratulations to the entire Staples We the People Team for competing at the national level.

    A huge shout out to Danielle Dobin who guided Unit One with commitment and care throughout the year.

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