Introducing Andrew Costantino, RE and Philosophy Teacher

Philosophy and Religious Education teacher Andrew Costantino is a man who is exploring the big questions in life. At Santa Sabina since 2010 Mr Costantino teaches Religious Education, Studies of Religion and Philosophy. He is currently training to teach the IBDP subject Theory of Knowledge and in 2021 will be teaching the new subject, his own brainchild and unique to Santa Sabina, Philosophy and World Studies. 

Philosophy is rarely taught in schools although Mr Costantino says ‘there are a number of courses around’ including the benchmark version created and taught in the renowned North Sydney Girls High school. The new course at Santa, with its specific World Studies focus, integrates psychology and global politics and draws issues out of the real world as case studies, to make it accessible and to add relevance. It is an integrated humanities course that critically examines big questions about everyday things through the disciplines of philosophy, psychology and politics.

If recent ‘taster’ lessons are any guide, there is keen interest among the students of Years 8 and 9 to take up the course in the coming years.

As Mr Costantino explains, the course is ideal for students who are interested in ‘an avenue of study that doesn’t have definite answers, that looks into the big questions about what it means to be human’.

‘The course really speaks to the kind of learner who is at the point where they want to challenge basic assumptions and who isn’t requiring or desiring easy answers.’

The course under development, a Stage 5 Elective, will be for Years 9 and 10 and will prepare students for either path of HSC or IBDP. ‘There’s going to be explicit teaching in argumentation and critical thinking – the theory behind how we argue points will be beneficial in many courses of study’, Mr Costantino said.

‘Students will learn how to construct arguments well, write more coherently and participate in better dialogue’. Students interested in a career in psychology would especially benefit, as will those heading into the IB journey where Philosophy, Psychology and Global Politics are optional courses of study. IBDP students elsewhere, including across the globe, will not have had the advantage of this introductory course which is also a beneficial prelude to the mandatory course of Theory of Knowledge. 

Mr Costantino has run the College Philosophy Club for many years and coaches our nationally successful Ethics Olympiad teams. He was recognised internationally this year for his work in teaching other Ethics Olympiad coaches when a professional development workshop he ran was recommended and shared by University of Texas Adjunct Professor and Ethics Olympiad Judge Matt Deaton in his blog, Australian Cookie Ethics. Mr Costantino’s guest post, The BLT – Babe, Lettuce and Tomato, has also just been published by the US-based Ethicsbowl.org.

Mr Costantino holds an Honours degree in Theology with a second major in Fine Arts from the Australian Catholic University and is considering postgraduate study. When not teaching, learning or writing the curriculum (the latter skill honed while still a student at ACU – his part-time work was writing the RE curriculum at Chevalier College Bowral) Mr Costantino is busy with family life (three young children) and his passionate pursuit of endurance cycling. He recently cycled 200 kms in one day – from Bilpin to Wisemans Ferry and back! He is also an HSC marker and a volunteer member of the Islamic Science and Research Academy where he presents at and organises conferences. The Academy is focused on interfaith dialogue and the professional development of Studies of Religion teachers.

When asked if the study of Philosophy is more important during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic he observes that challenging your presumptions and knowing why you think what you think is always important.

But in such times of crisis ‘the study of ethics is paramount in coming to terms with what you value, why you value it and how it shapes your responses’, he says.

‘Significant things are being asked of us and there is a significant need for community responsibility. There is a strong focus now on the role of the state versus the role of personal liberties and our basic assumptions are being tested. An awareness and understanding of motivations and reasoning behind other people’s reactions can lead to increased personal clarity and more productive dialogue’.