A Magical Approach To Teaching

By Janee Law

jlaw@longislandergroup.com

Christopher Homer, a health education teacher at the Cold Spring Harbor School District, also doubles as a magician. He’s pictured with one of his card tricks.

Christopher Homer, a health education teacher at the Cold Spring Harbor School District, also doubles as a magician. He’s pictured with one of his card tricks.

Cold Spring Harbor students know they’re in for a treat when Christopher Homer is at the helm of the class.

Homer, who is a health teacher in the school district, but also doubles as a magician, incorporates magic into his lesson plans. Sometimes that means changing two cards into another to discuss the effects of mental disorders; or changing a piece of paper into money for a lesson on financial responsibility.

Homer’s approach leaves students in awe.

“The best part about his class had to be the magic tricks,” said Justin Relf, one of Homer’s former students, who now is a freshman at the City College of New York in Manhattan. Relf, 18, of Cold Spring Harbor, had Homer as a teacher when he was a sophomore at Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School.

“He’s a very talented magician and surprised me all the time,” Relf added.

Incorporating magic tricks definitely helps students learn by getting them focused in the topic at hand, Relf said. A trick that Relf will never forget was when Homer made a card that had a student's signature on it appear in a closed box across the room.

“That was hands down the best one yet,” Relf said. “He uses magic as a tool to break the ice, get the kids going, get their brains activated in the class and get them curious.”

The 54-year-old Cold Spring Harbor resident graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from Adelphi University in 1984. He began his teaching career in New York City public schools in 1986 as an art teacher at George C. Tilyou Junior High School in Brooklyn. He remained there for three years.

As a new teacher, Homer said, he sought ways to get students interested in the subject at hand. He found the answer when he was watching a magic-themed television special.

The show, which featured street magic, “lit a fuse” within Homer. He ventured to the Magic Shop in Hicksville, which has since closed, where he bought three tricks: Three coins, three cups and a card.

For the next three years, Homer incorporated these three tricks into his lessons. He said what sold him on continuing the approach was his students’ reactions.

“Seeing their jaws drop and their eyes bug out… was great” he said. “To see that look of wonder on a person’s face is so amazing, and they acted so much better when they knew there was a chance they could see a magic trick in the classroom.”

Homer eventually decided to switch fields from art to health, a subject he developed a strong passion for in college.

Like his mother, Monica, who taught health at Adelphi for 34 years, Homer went on to earn a master’s from Adelphi in 1988.

“It’s a job where you can truly change lives and you can help somebody when they’re down and out and perhaps bring them to a better place in life,” Homer said. “I truly do think health should be the most important class somebody takes in their life. I love teaching it to make a difference.”

Homer soon moved on to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, for which he taught in 25 different Nassau diocesan schools across seven years.

In 1995, Homer began teaching in Cold Spring Harbor. He currently teaches students in grades seven, 10, 11 and 12. He also runs the district’s Natural Helpers Club, Students Waging War Against Tobacco, SADD and Save The Children.

Homer’s knowledge of magic and skillset has grown since the day he purchased those first three tricks many years ago. He can perform several magic tricks, and puts on magic shows, both at schools and in the community.

While doing shows at schools, Homer said, “I always try to have positive thoughtful tricks that you could tie into good lessons.”

Homer has also branched out of the school system to perform live magic shows for charity.

He volunteers to put on magic shows for adult, nursing and veteran homes, rehab centers, the North Shore Holiday House in Huntington, and more.

In addition, Homer is on the board for the camp discovery program at the Francis J. Logan Jr. Foundation, and, along with his wife Lori, runs the Save the Children Junior Council. He is also an Eucharist minister for St. Patrick’s Church, and delivers communion and library books to the homebound. In addition, Homer helps raise funds for the Tri Community and Youth Agency by scooping ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s on free cone day.