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Teachable Moments with Nathan Firestone, J.D.

Firestone

The Point
Winter 2013

“I like to tell my students that my objective is simple,” says Nathan Firestone, J.D., professor of political science. “I would like them to pick up the New York Times and fully grasp what is in there – and ultimately develop a more sophisticated understanding of politics.”

Firestone came to Point Park to teach comparative government on a part-time basis and joined the full-time faculty in 1970. Along the way, he earned his law degree and now teaches constitutional law, in addition to government and political science courses, at Point Park. The student population in the late 1960s and early 1970s included many Vietnam War veterans, recalls Firestone, a long-time magistrate who served the neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Point Breeze, Regent Square and Swisshelm Park in the city of Pittsburgh. He is now a senior magisterial district judge and was recently appointed to Pennsylvania’s Minor Judiciary Education Board by the state Supreme Court.

“When I started teaching here, Point Park was primarily a business school – the arts were not prominent at all. That has obviously changed, with the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA) becoming more and more prominent. The presence of COPA has been invaluable. Students have also benefited from increased opportunities to become exposed to different cultures on campus, notes Firestone.

In his approach to teaching, Firestone’s aim is to “create an intellectually challenging, yet not intimidating, atmosphere in the classroom.” He strives to “be a bit a bit laid-back and yet still maintain high standards – for my own performance and that of my students.”

At Point Park, “we have always had a nice mixture of students. That includes students who are very, very talented – the caliber of those admitted to the most selective colleges and universities – as well as some students who may have struggled in high school and found themselves here.” 

“I’ve always liked the fact that our classes are small and you are able to get to know students on a personal basis,” says Firestone. “One of the nice things about this job is that you come to realize, over time, that you can really have a positive effect on your students.

“Sometimes, when I am putting material on the blackboard and my thoughts lead me to explore different ideas, I think to myself, ‘how nice it is to be paid for thinking.’”

Text by Cheryl Valyo
Photo by Martha Rial

The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University