Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Luke Roadcap, Virginia

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature a state winner every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Luke Roadcap:


Luke Roadcap, Elkton Middle School
2017 Virginia History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
There are way too many wonderful memories to just select one. One memory that stands out is, after walking into the gym for a school assembly, it hit me that, being the only 6th grade social studies teacher, I knew every single student in the gym—all of them had been in my classroom. A funny memory comes from when I was teaching Prohibition. We pretended the room was a speakeasy and there needed to be a secret knock to enter the classroom. When the principal walked in, a student exclaimed: “Look out! It’s the cops!”

A third favorite memory is when I teamed up with an English teacher to lead a joint research project on Japanese internment camps and then allowed students to present their projects in a “history fair” type setting. Another memorable moment, or rather series of moments, is when a particular 8th grade basketball player would seek me out to tie his necktie on game days. Most memories focus on the incredible learning that took place and the relationships that were developed because our school is not just a school, it’s a community.

What is the last great history book you read?
This is an incredibly tricky question because there are so many great history books, each one having its own reasons. In The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, Erez Manela argues that even though Woodrow Wilson was unable to fulfill his promise of self-determination, his message spread throughout oppressed nations and ignited the spark that led to the decolonization movement. Another great book is Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Baptist provides readers with a more nuanced view of slavery, particularly regarding its impact on the industrialized sections of the United States. Challenging the notion that the Monroe Doctrine placed the United States in isolation, Jay Sexton, in The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in the Nineteenth Century, illustrates the imperialist paradox of the Doctrine.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
It is too difficult to settle on only one historical site or museum, so I must go with Colonial Williamsburg and the Freedom Trail in Boston. Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors the opportunity to step back into time and, in many cases, truly interact with the history of our country’s founding. The atmosphere at Colonial Williamsburg allows guests to gain a genuine historical experience. However, on the other hand, the Freedom Trail in Boston is quite a unique experience as well. Although the trail focuses mainly on the beginnings of the American Revolution, there are a few places along the way that commemorate other aspects of our nation’s history, including William Lloyd Garrison’s first abolitionist speech at Park Street Church. What I find most unique about the Freedom Trail is the juxtaposition of old and new. The Old South Meeting House where patriots gathered prior to the Boston Tea Party is flanked by high-rise buildings.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
The advice I would give students who are unsure if they would like to enter the teaching profession, is that it is okay to be unsure. There are so many different directions that one can take, so it is only natural to be unsure of choices that will affect your future. The beauty of teacher education programs is in the field experiences, where you will be able to practice your role as a teacher. Those opportunites can help guide your decision.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Woodrow Wilson! Most of my undergraduate- and graduate-level work focused on his actions regarding the League of Nations. I find Wilson to be a fascinating character in history—reviled by some, but adored by others. His perseverance to create and then join the League of Nations ignited the passion in him to fight for what he thought was right. Furthermore, Woodrow Wilson was a fellow educator! He held the intellectual achievements of education in such high regard that he lobbied for the graduate school at Princeton University to be built in the center of campus, even though in the end, it was not.

Who is your favorite historian?
John Milton Cooper Jr. is my favorite historian. Like me, the focus of his research is on Woodrow Wilson, so much of what he has done influenced my own work.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
While I enjoy practically all areas related to United States history, perhaps my favorite is diplomatic history, specifically the events surrounding the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the development of the Marshall Plan. More than just looking at America’s position in the international community and to what degree other countries wished input (or interference) from the United States, these topics lead historians to a deeper question: What did Americans perceive their role to be in the world?

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
It seems that most students typically enjoy learning about the different wars the United States fought. Perhaps this is because they equate wars with action and adventure from watching movies, or because they have prior knowledge of the events. Quite often, students ask about Vietnam, and that question seems to stem from their grandfather, or another loved one’s, participation in the conflict.



Congratulations Lin-Manuel Miranda, Freedom Award Winner!

Lin-Manuel Miranda receives the US Capitol Historical Society Freedom Award on September 12, 2017, in the National Statuary Hall.  (C-SPAN)Lin-Manuel Miranda received the 2017 US Capitol Historical Society Freedom Award on September 12 for his efforts in creating the musical Hamilton and the Hamilton Education Program, a program developed in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation.

“We are very honored to present this award to Mr. Miranda,” said Donald Carlson, chair of the US Capitol Historical Society. “We give him this award because of his unique ability to engage new audiences with our history and his dedication to inspiring informed civic participation.”

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman John Lewis joined Chairman Carlson in honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work. Senator Murkowski praised Miranda “for his commitment to the strength and value of our democracy—for surely no one could write Hamilton, bring it to theaters, educate students about the man and his times—if he did not love his country and all that it can be.”

In his acceptance speech, Miranda stressed the importance of the arts in fostering empathy and humanity—two traits that help young adults grow into better citizens. He explained that his life was changed by the opportunity to participate in a performing arts program at a New York City public school, and expressed his belief that all students deserve access to the arts.

It was through this belief that the Hamilton Education Program was born, which Miranda called the highlight of his Hamilton efforts as well as the aspect that will leave the largest legacy in inspiring the next generation of American leaders to be mindful of how they leave their mark on their country.

Watch the entire ceremony below:



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Kathleen Boland, Connecticut

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature a state winner every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Kathleen Boland:


Kathleen Boland, Trumbull High School
2017 Connecticut History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
My students this year surprised me with a birthday party back in December. We had just won the State Championship for the We the People competition a few days before. They managed to ask our dean of students to call me out of the classroom during passing time and make me “tardy” to class. When I came into the room, they all jumped up from their hiding places and started singing “Happy Birthday” to me with my dean of students laughing in the background. They had birthday cake and other desserts for the class to share as well as themed gifts for me including a cardboard cutout of my favorite founding father, George Washington, and a bobble-head figure of my other favorite, Alexander Hamilton, for my desk. I was truly surprised and thankful for this beautiful gesture from my class.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Milford, Connecticut, was founded in 1639 while the Puritans were chasing the Pequots down the coast during the Pequot War. It has the longest coastline of any town in Connecticut.

Kathleen Boland with her studentsWhat is the last great history book you read?
Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America by Stephen Knott and Tony Williams. This is a great joint biography of the unlikely friendship and alliance between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. It’s a must read for all early American history buffs.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Do it! Teaching is one of the best jobs in the world. As a teacher, you get to continually learn new things, not only about your subject area, but also about yourself. Each day brings new challenges and new insights and “best moments.” It is amazing to be able to witness a student learning a concept or idea for the first time or seeing the smile on their face when they ace a project or quiz.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
George Washington upon his final return home upon retirement to Mount Vernon. I would like to meet with him on his porch overlooking the Potomac and ask him all sorts of questions. I would also like to ask for his advice on what lessons I should teach my students about his life and the founding of our country.

Who is your favorite historian?
Carol Berkin. She brings the Founding Fathers alive through her books and her talks. After reading Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution or Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for Americas Independence, you really gain an appreciation and deep understanding of the men and women who created our nation.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
There is a story that, upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was simple and direct: “A republic, if you can keep it.” This founding of our nation is my favorite historical era because it not only lays the foundation of our country, but also gives us the mandate to keep the republic alive.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My We the People students love debating the Founding Fathers. We often have discussions in class about the most influential Founding Fathers/Mothers and the most overrated ones. I often have many students who are Team Jefferson and others who may be Team Adams or Team Hamilton.



Vietnam War Resources from the Gilder Lehrman Institute

This Sunday, September 17, marks the premiere of The Vietnam War, a ten-part, 18-hour documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that takes a multifaceted look at one of America’s most divisive and controversial conflicts. Prepare for the series by building up your Vietnam-era background knowledge with scholarly essays, primary source documents, teaching tools, and videos from our website:

Video: The Origins of the Vietnam War
In this video lecture, National Security Archive senior fellow John Prados discusses the factors that led to the Vietnam War. 

Infographic: The Vietnam War: Military Statistics
An infographic shows the number of deployed US military forces and casualties from 1964 to 1972.

Featured Primary Source: Robert F. Kennedy to John Bayliss, 1967
In this September 15, 1967, letter Senator Robert F. Kennedy states that the government’s goal in Vietnam “is to protect the right of the South Vietnamese to be able to govern themselves.”

Essay: The First Saddest Day of My Life: A Vietnam War Story
Sharon D. Raynor takes readers through the Vietnam War diary of her father, Louis Raynor, who was drafted at age eighteen and served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. 

Essay: The Vietnam War and the My Lai Massacre
George Herring, professor of history emeritus at the University of Kentucky, looks at the events and legacy of the 1968 My Lai and My Khe massacres, in which US soldiers killed more than 400 Vietnamese civilians. 

Essay: The Consequences of Defeat in Vietnam
Mark Atwood Lawrence, associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, investigates why the US government, while exploring military tactics for fighting the Vietnam War, failed to assess the possibility and consequences of a defeat.

Featured Primary Source: Edward Kennedy on conscience, resistance, and reconciliation at the end of the Vietnam War, 1973
In a letter written after the Paris Peace Accords officially ended US involvement in Vietnam, Senator Kennedy discusses the need to care for those who served in Southeast Asia and to turn “attention to reconciliation and healing the wounds and bitterness created by this long and costly conflict.” 

Lesson Plan: The End of the Vietnam War: Conscience, Resistance, and Reconciliation
In this two-lesson unit, students use primary source documents to explore the moral and political arguments of the post-war debate over pardons for draft evasion.

Essay: Vietnam Veterans Memorial
In this excerpt from Maya Lin’s Boundaries, the designer and artist reflects on the symbolism and significance of her winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, and what meaning it holds for her.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Jennifer Faith, Kentucky

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature a state winner every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Jennifer Faith:


Jennifer Faith, Eastside Middle School
2017 Kentucky History Teacher of the Year

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, which is located in the southeastern corner of the state. The economy is focused on coal mining. Harlan earned the nickname “Bloody Harlan” due to violence during labor strikes, focused on the workers’ desire to unionize. There is a documentary called Harlan County USA that focuses on this event in the 1970s.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film/series is the History Channel series America the Story of US. I use this series in my classroom a lot. My students are engaged and learn so much from this series. It isn’t boring, which is a huge bonus for a history educational video.

Jennifer Faith facilitates a student project.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
My favorite historical museum/site is the Frazier History Museum, which is located in Louisville. I try to take my students there at least once each year. They have a wonderful education program, historical actors, and traveling exhibits.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
If I could travel back in time and meet any historical figure it would be Thomas Jefferson. George Washington is my favorite person in American history, but Thomas Jefferson is the one that I have the most mixed feelings about. He was a strict constructionist but he purchased the Louisiana Territory. He said that “all Men are created equal,” but he had slaves and fathered children with one of his slaves. Washington freed his slaves in his will. Why didn’t Jefferson? So many questions . . . Plus he was brilliant, kind of like the Leonardo da Vinci of the Founding Era.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
My favorite historical topic to teach is the Constitution. I feel as though this is the most important topic that I teach my students because it directly relates to their lives. This is also the most challenging topic that I teach because I have to be very deliberate about the methods I use to teach the Constitution. I love the moment when my students can really see how this affects their lives. Last year, my students created an election scrapbook. One component of the scrapbook was a document-based question regarding the Electoral College and whether it should be abolished. Those students know more about how the Electoral College works than the majority of adults!

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students’ favorite historical topic/era is Manifest Destiny/Westward Expansion. I am fortunate to work with a librarian who loves history, and she allows me to turn her library into a historical adventure. During this unit, the students “pan for gold,” make butter, scrub clothes on a washboard, pack a wagon, and flesh out a deer hide. They don’t even realize that they are learning!



Explore the Constitution with the Gilder Lehrman Institute

September 17 is Constitution Day, a time to celebrate the US Constitution, the oldest written national framework for government in the world. Take the opportunity to discover and appreciate its history, content, and meaning with Gilder Lehrman resources on the Constitution, from online exhibitions to scholarly interpretations:

Creating the Constitution

Online Exhibit: “We the People”: Printings of the US Constitution from the Gilder Lehrman Collection

Infographic: Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

Essay: James Madison and the Constitution

Video: Calling the Constitutional Convention

Primary Source: Printing of the Constitution Distributed in New York, 1788

Amending the Constitution

Primary Source: Speech in Favor of the Twelfth Amendment, 1803

Primary Source: Fifteenth Amendment Resolution, 1869

Essay: The Reconstruction Amendments: Official Documents as Social History

Essay: The Nineteenth Amendment and the Movement for Women's Suffrage

The Constitution and the American People

Essay: Ordinary Americans and the Constitution

Essay: Race and the American Constitution: A Struggle Towards National Ideals

Video: Slavery and the Constitution

Essay: Why We the People? Citizens as Agents of Constitutional Change

For more, visit Constitution Day Resources from the Gilder Lehrman Institute.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Randy Martin, New Mexico

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature a state winner every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Randy Martin: 


Randy Martin, Desert Ridge Middle School
2017 New Mexico History Teacher of the Year 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
“Albuquerque” was originally named after the Moorish-Spanish town of “Alburquerque” in Badajoz, Spain. Our Albuquerque is now more than 100 times bigger than the original town is. It is also one of the most entertaining cities to have people try to spell.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I have traveled to 22 different nations on 4 continents in the past 5 years in order to visit and study in historical sites from all over the world, but my favorite site is still the original Jamestowne Island in Virginia. Jamestowne has a certain feeling or aura to it that nowhere else has. It’s almost like you can feel the forces of history that were at work there starting in 1607. There is a sense of hope and despair, enterprise and desperation, as well as adventure and tragedy that envelop you as you walk through the old fort. This is compounded by the fact that there are archaeologists working all around you as you visit, often pulling something out of the ground that has not been seen in 400 years. You never know what amazing and history-altering discovery might be just under your feet!

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
One of the principals I worked for used to have a little inspirational knick-knack on his desk. It was a small resin basketball going into a net that said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” While I am terrible at basketball, the advice remains the same for a career in teaching. There are so many opportunities for teachers out there that are ours for the taking if you look for them. There are amazing travel and exchange opportunities though institutions like the Gilder Lehrman Institute that take you all over the nation and the world to study topics related to your content. There are grants for amazing materials or money to buy them. There are even seminars and professional development opportunities that will pay you to attend. All you have to do is look and apply. Take every shot. Even if you apply for 50 and only get 3, you will still have some amazing experiences that will enhance your teaching and your personal growth. I don’t know many other careers that offer these sorts of opportunities!

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I recently learned about the importance of enlightenment thinker and teacher George Wythe. He was a teacher of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Henry Clay, John Marshall, and a number of other influential founding fathers, and thus had direct influences on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and various other timeless documents and ideas. His ideas on education and its purpose were also quite profound. I think we could all learn a great deal from him.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
When I was in middle school, a friend and I were looking for a movie to watch from among his father’s collection. Being “tough and hardened” adolescent boys, we were naturally looking for something that would be violent and gory. We ended up picking the Civil War movie Glory. The film follows the story of the 54th Massachusetts, a black regiment led by Colonel R. G. Shaw. It showed the hardships that the men had to face, not only as people of color, but as soldiers in the war. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who has not seen it, but I can say that both my friend and I, as tough and hardened as we thought we were, wept like the children that we actually were all night after it was over, and then had discussions and debates on the Civil War for weeks. Ultimately, it was that movie that made me interested in history, led me to study it, and travel to experience it, and gave me the desire to teach it. The story of Glory quite literally took hold of and changed my life.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Nicole Bishop, South Carolina

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature a state winner every Tuesday and Thursday, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Nicole Bishop: 



Nicole Bishop, Irmo Elementary School
2017 South Carolina History Teacher of the Year 

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching? 
My most cherished, stand-out memory from last school year happened during a whole-class socratic-seminar-style conversation. We were discussing the many ways to define a family, and our definition of love as it related to our home and school family. I posed the question, “What does love look like or sound like to you?” One of my students responded, “I now know that love is real because of you.” This student had previously expressed many times in the year that she did not feel loved by her family. She demonstrated a lot of anger and frustration throughout the school day. Seeing the joyful learning and social and emotional progress expressed in the smile she shared with the class was one of the highlights of my year. I made it my mission to build an even stronger relationship with her family and find ways to highlight that she was indeed very loved, in both her home and school family. 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.  
I teach in a beautiful school that was built in 1935. My school, a K-5 elementary school, Irmo Elementary, was originally the Irmo School, housing first through eleventh grades. The funding for our grand, red-brick school came from the great Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which allowed federal funds for public works  The community took such pride in and felt gratitude toward our government; countless unemployed workers and community members worked with shovels and rakes to level the large back ballfield area behind our school. This history of my school leaves me in awe of our nation’s rich history, but also compels me to keep the story of a thankful and hard-working country alive.

What is the last great history book you read? 
Among many other texts, I am currently reading Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial. Although there are about 1,000 other texts on Lincoln, this one has a fascinating and important lens for viewing our 16th president, and it is critical we share Foner’s viewpoint as history teachers. Often our students think historical figures moved from point A to point B and in Lincoln’s case point A might be his presidency and point B might be emancipation of slavery. Foner illustrates that while Lincoln was always an admirable and praiseworthy man, he grew and changed over time in his understanding and actionable stance to end slavery.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The National Mall in Washington DC, from the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and every single facet of the Smithsonian in between. Specifically, I visited the National Museum of African American History December of 2016 and was forever changed by the experience. I look forward to naking another visit with my husband and daughters to this solemn yet inspiring place of reverence, growth, and change built on the democratic principles of equality and freedom for all.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?  
I am brutally honest when asked this question by our university interns. It does us no good to sugarcoat this answer; we must include the truth of teaching or we will continue to lose teachers before their 5th year in the classroom. Like parenting, our profession is incredibly challenging and often excruciating physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, teaching is also one of life’s greatest joys, honors, and gifts. As educators, we must seek to maintain balance between our own beloved families and our personal lives and the children of the families we serve. Above all, teaching is a profession of great importance as we are shaping our present and our future. 

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why? 
Frederick Douglass. I am most compelled by those on the outside of democracy looking in, yet still willing to sacrifice everything to ensure the rights of and freedom for all. We talk so much in education today about grit and growth-mindset. We need to look no farther than Frederick Douglass to examine the finest example of both.

Who is your favorite historian?
Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite past historian and Eric Foner is my current favorite historian. I enjoy and learn best while reading Eric Foner’s work and viewing his videos, to aid in my understanding and synthesis.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns America on PBS, the John Adams miniseries on HBO, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
It’s difficult to narrow it down: the European Enlightenment, the Civil War/Reconstruction, the Great Depression/World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Founding Era, African American emancipation, and civil rights.



Meet the National History Teacher of the Year Finalists

Congratulations to the ten finalists for 2017 National History Teacher of the Year!

These educators were chosen from the 52 exceptional 2017 State History Teachers of the Year for their innovative methods of bringing history to life for their students through the use of historic documents and artifacts, field trips, demonstrations, and hands-on projects. The National History Teacher of the Year, who will be announced in October, will receive a $10,000 prize and a special ceremony in New York City, where they will be presented the National History Teacher of the Year Award by Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University.

Learn more about these ten talented educators:

Nicole Bishop, South Carolina 
Nicole Bishop teaches first grade at Irmo Elementary School in Irmo, South Carolina. Her teaching philosophy is, “I do not just teach American history; I teach young citizens and junior American historians.” Her students examine the lives of inspirational Americans who have shown “grit,” such as Frederick Douglass and Mary McLeod Bethune, as a way to illustrate the American ideals of perseverance and striving for the rights and liberty of others. 

 

 


John-David Bowman, Arizona 
John-David Bowman teaches American history and government at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona, where he has been since 2007. He has given more than 60 speeches on leadership, education, policy, and civic engagement throughout Arizona, and presented at Arizona Social Studies conferences. He injects his lessons with interactive activities to engage his students, such as holding Civil War battle reenactments on the school football field. 

 

 

John Burkowski, Florida 
John Burkowski teaches American history and Advanced Placement American history, government, and economics at the Academy for Advanced Academics in Miami, Florida. John’s goals in the classroom are to foster not only an understanding of history but also an appreciation of the subject among his students, many of whom are taking advanced, college-level classes. To accomplish this, his teaching philosophy is to “keep it simple,” and he devotes a majority of his classroom time to student collaboration and discussion.

 

 

W. Blake Busbin, Alabama
Blake Busbin teaches Advanced Placement US History at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama, where he has taught US history and government and politics since 2007. Blake holds a PhD in Social Studies Education from Auburn University. From 2014 to 2017, Blake and his students embarked on the Auburn High School Veterans Project, an ambitious project that gave students the opportunity to learn military history through interviews with local veterans, and preserve their first-hand accounts for future generations in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. He hopes to begin a similar project to explore the local Civil Rights Movement.  

 

Kevin Dua, Massachusetts
Kevin Dua teaches at Somerville High School in Somerville, Massachusetts. In his classroom, Kevin works to promote civic engagement as well as foster discussion and understanding among his students. Outside the classroom, he has organized academic initiatives that include Reclaiming Blackfaces, a student project to create a documentary about the mistaken photographic identities of Frederick Douglass, Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner, and The Matter Speaks Series, a program to engage educators and students in discussions on gender, sexual orientation, race, politics, and culture.

 

Georgette Hackman, Pennsylvania
Georgette teaches 7th grade at Cocalico Middle School in Cocalico, Pennsylvania, with a focus on early American history, the American Revolution, and the Constitution. She holds an MA in Education from Pennsylvania State University and an MA in American History and Government from Ashland University. Georgette has participated in numerous teacher seminars at Ford’s Theatre, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute, which has helped inspire her to write immersive, hands-on lessons for her students.

 

 

Randy Martin, New Mexico
Randy Martin teaches 7th and 8th grade social studies and history at Desert Ridge Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has taught since 2007. His lessons revolve around the examination of historical artifacts, diary entries, documents, and music as a way to teach critical analysis skills and foster independent thinking, which he hopes will allow his students to distinguish false information from reality. 

 



Jason Steinagle, New York 
Jason Steinagle teaches 7th grade at Hamburg Middle School in Hamburg, New York, where he has taught both American and world history for over 20 years. He has organized a vast array of historical and civic programs for his middle school students, including holding electronic field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, giving students the opportunity to meet with new American citizens in a Naturalization Ceremony, connecting students with state senators to propose new legislation, inviting Seneca Nation Dancers and African drummers to his class, and more. 
 

 

Renny Taylor, North Carolina
Renny Taylor teaches US history, world history, and contemporary law at Nash Central High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he has taught since 2009. This year, Renny took his students on a “Civil War to Civil Rights” field trip, where they traced the arduous path to emancipation and civil rights through stops at historical sites such as Vicksburg National Military Park, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the Lorraine Hotel. He hopes to inspire his students to be lifelong learners of history who can apply what they have learned to situations outside the classroom.
 

 

Sara Ziemnik, Ohio 
Sara Ziemnik teaches US history at Rocky River High School in Rocky River, Ohio. In addition to teaching history, over her 17 years at Rocky River, she has taught subjects as varied as Western civilization, geopolitics, and psychology. Sara enroucages her students to take positions of leadership and examine opposing views, and stresses the power of the individual to create positive change in the world. She has collaborated with the Cleveland State Department of Digital Humanities to create a Cleveland Historical App, through which her students follow Cleveland’s history as a microcosm of the eras and trends in American history.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: John Burkowski, Florida

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet John Burkowski: 



John Burkowski, Academy for Advanced Academics South
2017 Florida History Teacher of the Year

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I recently visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. I was fortunate to secure tickets for late-morning admission. I decided to first visit the History Galleries on the bottom floor. What an experience for a history nerd and teacher. The experience took me back in time to 1400. From there I viewed an amazing presentation of historical facts and primary sources. I traveled forward in time by walking through gallery levels and then onto ramps to new eras in African American history. It was an extraordinary display of continuity and change over time. The primary sources were powerful and supplemented the textual explanations. I kept imagining how I could “teach” all this by simply bringing my students to take the journey and let them get lost in the history. Obviously, I spent most of my time in the History Galleries.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
One of the main deterrents of seeking a teaching job is the pay. And yes, in this day and age, teaching will not make one independently wealthy. But teaching is a passion. My advice is to discover a career where you always wake up and want to go to work. And those who want to teach should be driven by waking up being happy to inspire the next generation and not focused on achieving a great wealth. It is easier said than done, but teaching a class is not the limit. I seek out new avenues of professional development and new opportunities to gain more knowledge and understanding of my subject in order to help fellow teaching colleagues who also share the responsibility of educating the next generation citizens.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
There is absolutely no question I would meet Alexander “The MAN” Hamilton. And I loved Hamilton before it was cool. I read the biography by Chernow in 2004 and it only solidified what I already believed about Hamilton. He was the embodiment of the American identity—an immigrant to the American shores who quickly makes his talents known and appreciated. He dedicates himself to the cause of independence and gains the confidence of the Father of the Nation, George Washington. He is influential in every major political and economic development of the Early Republic, including the Constitution and the national economy. His critics have their arguments, but I absolutely believe he truly dedicated himself to the idea of America.

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
One memory happened recently. I assigned students a historical role in a Model Congress activity I developed. We had been discussing major historical events and policies throughout the year using the Model Congress. By the time we made it to the New Deal, the students became extremely confident in assuming roles and researching. A few of my students were practicing their arguments and it caught the attention of a university professor sitting nearby. She inquired to why they were discussing such issues and decided to assist them. She offered legal advice and helped with developing their oral arguments. The students excitedly recalled the experience to me and how one student was offered further assistance by the professor. I was proud the students became so engaged with the activity and how it inspired others to join in on the fun.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
If I could qualify this with a favorite film or clip I love to use to teach US History—I use three clips from Amistad. The depiction of the Middle Passage journey is heart-wrenching and an illustration of how brutal the American slave trade was to so many innocents. I also use the White House dinner scene focused on John C. Calhoun. The writing of the dialogue is a fantastic way to illustrate point-of-view with the Spanish ambassador and President van Buren. It also a fantastic way to provide an additional take on his Positive Good speech, which we previously analyzed. One important line is when Calhoun mentions how slavery is “interwoven in the fabric of society,” alluding to cotton. The final clip is the oral argument by John Quincy Adams in support of the Amistad defendants. His monologue’s use of connecting to the past with the Founding Fathers allows students to visualize the legacy of the Founders on subsequent historical developments.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: John-David Bowman, Arizona

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet John-David Bowman: 



John-David Bowman, Westwood High School
2017 Arizona History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny moment from teaching?
My favorite moments in teaching are often not actually content based. While those prove funny and enjoyable, I really relish the moments when students come back and share stories about their lives and experiences. One story I often tell is of a former student who was attending Stanford and was heavily involved with Black Lives Matter. He called me on my lunch break to ask if I would be his “in case of emergency contact.” I asked him why, and he said they were planning a lie-in protest in the middle of the street. He then casually asked, if he was arrested, would I bail him out of jail. When I signed up to be a history teacher, I thought it was all about the content. The content is important, but the relationships matter the most.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I grew up for the most part in Mesa, Arizona. It was named one of the ten most boring cities in America. Subsequently, I had a lot of time to read history books.

What was the last great history book you read?
It might not be the last great book I read, but American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham is outstanding. I really dislike Andrew Jackson as a president and presume if I had met him, as a person too. So I decided to read a biography on him to learn more. I still really dislike him, but the book is a wonderful look at the relationships and events in politics during the antebellum period.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I visited the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City against my will a few years ago. I was with colleagues at a conference and on an off-day they suggested we go see a steamboat that someone dug up. That sounded absolutely horrible, but I was outvoted. It is amazing!  It is basically a well-preserved time machine into the 1850s. Everyone who loves history should see it.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be?
If I could meet anyone in history it would be Henry Clay. He spent his entire life trying to preserve this nation. If I could meet someone today, it would be John Lewis, who I believe to be one of the most underrated heroes of the Civil Rights era. So if Gilder Lehrman could make that happen, it would be appreciated.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Band of Brothers is probably my favorite historical series. I love the interviews that were captured of the veterans at the beginning of each episode. Also, World War II is simply fascinating.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
My favorite era to study is antebellum America, specifically the politics. People like James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, the previously mentioned Jackson, etc., are so interesting. The struggle over expansion, slavery, and the impending Civil War shaped the nation both positively and negatively. There is a tremendous amount of nuance in the era.  

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students love the Civil War, probably because we do a battle simulation on the football field. They also seem to enjoy World War II, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights era.  



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Sara Ziemnik, Ohio

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Sara Ziemnik: 



Sara Ziemnik, Rocky River High School
2017 Ohio History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
One of my favorite memories is when I relocated from Cincinnati to Cleveland, and my students created a scrapbook for me with letters they wrote, jokes from class, and pictures. I still treasure that scrapbook and it sure made packing up that classroom hard! It was my first year teaching and they all taught me so much.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The TV show and movie The Fugitive is based on a crime that happened in my hometown of Bay Village, Ohio—the Sam Sheppard murder case.

What is the last great history book you read?
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I love walking in the Great Hall at Ellis Island and knowing that my relatives immigrating from Portugal, Germany, and Italy were in that exact same room.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Teaching is not easy, but it is the most rewarding job you can possibly choose. It is never the same day twice and never a dull moment, and that’s why I love it. If you want a job where the days fly by, you laugh a lot, and you are challenged, you can’t go wrong with teaching.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Ida B. Wells—her bravery and tenacity in light of the world she was facing are truly inspiring. I wish I had half the courage she had.

Who is your favorite historian?
I enjoy reading Howard Zinn and Gordon Wood because they are not only talented historians but expert storytellers. Both of them challenge their readers and really make you think, and I love that.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
This is a tough one! Historical fiction is my jam. I love the movies Amistad, Life Is Beautiful, and the Pianist. And of course, Forrest Gump. 

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I really enjoy studying what America went through in the 1960s, because there was so much turmoil but also so much unity. I think we have a lot to learn today from where we were in that era, and I’m inspired by how people overcame so much.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
World War II is always a favorite to study, as many had family members who served in different ways and there are always some really cool family ties to that time period. One year, one of my students had her grandma come in to talk to us about her experience as a WASP during the war, and I also have some friends in the Japanese American Citizens League who have spoken to my students about how Executive Order 9066 affected them and their families.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Renny Taylor, North Carolina

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Renny Taylor:


Renny Taylor, Nash Central High School
2017 North Carolina History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?

Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis by Clint Johnson.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The city, museums, and battlefield sites at Petersburg VA are great. Locally, I am a docent for a plantation house known as Stonewall Manor that was built in 1839 and is a great place for someone to experience Antebellum life.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education, but are unsure?
You have to love history. That love will come out in your teaching and rub off on your students. They will see that you are sharing a passion with them instead trying to get through the class period. They will buy into that passion. Please try to experience history, don’t just read books. Go somewhere and actually say to yourself, “I am standing where history was made. Our country changed because of what happened here.”

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Thomas Jefferson. I hope that means that we can have a sit-down at Monticello. I would have to ask him about his relationships with John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. I know he and Adams reconciled, but I want to know about the bad blood during and after the election of 1800. It would be interesting to see if he thought the southern states were within their constitutional rights to secede. I think it would be a hoot to see his reaction to how big and involved our government has gotten.

Who is your favorite historian?
I don’t know if purists would say he qualifies or not but I’m going with Ken Burns. The topics that he has discussed and the way it is presented is appealing to history lovers and people of casual interest.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
John Adams (HBO)

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The antebellum period through the Civil War.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students really enjoy discussing the presidential elections. They love the mud-slinging, political cartoons, and propaganda.

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Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Jason Steinagle, New York

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Jason Steinagle: 



Jason Steinagle, Hamburg Middle School
2017 New York History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
I had the opportunity to substitute teach an American history high school class early in my career. I knew that it was important to keep the attention of my young audience. This was a lesson on the American Revolution, so I gently pulled the wall map of the thirteen colonies down to show my students the location of the battles. As I told the stories of Lexington and Concord, I touched the map to show their proximity to Boston. Immediately, the map recoiled with such forced that it jumped off the metal hooks that attached it to the wall and came crashing to the floor narrowly missing my head. Needless to say, I had my students’ attention.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I teach in Hamburg, New York, where, according to local folklore, the hamburger originated in 1885. Two brothers from Ohio, Frank and Charles Menches of Akron, owned a vendor booth that sold sausages at the Erie County Fair, one of the oldest and largest in the country. Unfortunately, they ran out of pork for their sandwiches. Charles was forced to buy ground beef because the local butcher shop also ran out of pork, and it was too hot to slaughter any more. He took the ground beef back, rolled it into a patty, and tossed it on a cast-iron stove. Then, he started mixing together things like coffee, brown sugar, and other common household ingredients. The brothers placed the patty between two pieces of bread and served it to a customer who took a bite and said, “This is good!! What do you call it?” Frank then looked up at a banner at the fair and responded, “It’s called a hamburger.”

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I have always enjoyed Old Fort Niagara, which was built by the French, strategically, at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, controlling the trade of the Great Lakes. This is where my love of history began. I remember visiting as a fourth grader years ago, when I saw the old brick walls and I listened intently to the stories of the docents as we toured the French Castle, the Guard Towers, and the Powder Magazine. More importantly, the cannon demonstrations and reenactors created lasting memories. These experiences have inspired me to create learning experiences for my students that immerse them in the historical eras and instill a love and appreciation of their past. Every year my school visits the fort. My family and I also visit the fort every summer.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Be passionate about your students, your community, your subject, and your profession. Focus your energy to create an ideal classroom environment for your students and for yourself. Set high expectations beyond the minimal Common Core standards and provide the resources necessary for your students to be successful. Continue to learn throughout your career – if you stop learning, you stop teaching.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I would like to meet Harriet Tubman. She provided hope and inspiration to millions of African American slaves during her time. Her courage is limitless, returning to the South several times to rescue her family and others even when her own health was compromised. 

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film is Glory. Every year, my students view the movie that celebrates the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War. These men fought bravely to take Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Their courage was a major step in changing Northern attitudes concerning slavery and the purpose of the war. My students learn that participating responsibly can make a positive change in our community.  



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Blake Busbin, Alabama

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Blake Busbin: 


Blake Busbin, Auburn High School
2017 Alabama History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
The Legacy of Conquest by Patricia Nelson Limerick is one that truly stands out. It came recommended by a friend who read it for his Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar this summer. It stood out to me by challenging the way in which I interpreted the American West while also holding my interest throughout with intriguing stories and keen insights. Her key points have led me to reevaluate how I structure my unit on post-Civil War westward expansion and encouraged me to seek ways in which to truly promote multiple perspectives, beyond just settlers and American Indians, in this unit.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
We are really fortunate to have the National Infantry Museum (Fort Benning/Columbus, Georgia) close to us. This is an incredible site to study military history as it tells the story of the US Army Infantry within the broader context of America’s rise to a world power. It puts on display amazing artifacts organized in a way that helps tell this story within its many interpretive exhibits, such as the jungle for the Vietnam War or the trenches in World War I. One of the great parts of this museum is the likelihood of touring it alongside veterans who experienced much of the recent history on display; with this chance, it serves as a prime opportunity to express our gratitude for their service and engage in meaningful conversation about what we see in the museum. This past spring, my students hosted at the museum oral history interviews with Vietnam veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project; it was an incredible learning experience for them to be able to tour the museum with the veterans while also sitting down to help preserve history for future generations.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
My best word of advice for those considering secondary education is to think beyond a love of the content. They certainly need a love for the content they may be teaching, but more importantly they must possess a servant’s heart for those placed under their direction. Lesson plans fall apart and often times do not meet the best expectations that a teacher might have for them, but this is often unseen by the students. What is observed is whether or not the teacher values the students in their care. This sense of compassion for the students is the foundation to success in the classroom. A teacher may have a tremendous understanding of what they are teaching along with one of the best lesson plans ever, but without a positive, mutual relationship of respect and admiration between the students and teacher, the lesson will not succeed.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I have found the Vietnam War, with its many implications both at home and abroad, to be a topic that I can absolutely immerse myself and my students in with great outcomes. Richard Nixon said in 1980 that “no event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War.” I find this quote so true for my students, therefore making it a great topic to teach as it has an eye-opening effect. The history of the Vietnam War contains so many instances of individuals having to make difficult choices full of moral complexity, such as a draftee choosing to accept their draft status or to choose evasion, that it provides valuable discussions for class. With all of the recent attention being given to the era—Ken Burns’s upcoming documentary, the New York Times’s recent ’67 series, and the upcoming 50th anniversary—the new scholarship being produced has brought a new level of depth to researching the era. The photographs, personal accounts, and music all add an additional layer that makes it so rich to teach.



Announcing Library Programming Grants

The Library Affiliate Program is offering public libraries six $400 grants to fund student-focused American history programming. Applications are being accepted until September 15, and grant recipients will be notified on October 2. The grant for this period will cover programming held between November 1, 2017, and May 1, 2018. Click here to apply!

Grants are open to all public libraries who are part of the Gilder Lehrman Library Affiliate Program. If your library is not yet an affiliate, you can easily register for the program here



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Georgette Hackman, Pennsylvania

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Georgette Hackman: 


Georgette Hackman, Cocalico Middle School
2017 Pennsylvania State History Teacher of the Year

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I have a definite tie. The first place is Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. Because I am a huge Lincoln fan, many people ask me why I am devoted to the location where Lincoln was assassinated. The reason is simple. Ford’s Theatre is dedicated to preserving Lincoln’s memory. Even the signs read “where Lincoln’s legacy lives.” There is something moving and meaningful about spending time in the building where Lincoln spent his final hours. In addition, Ford’s has been able to bring together two of my favorite things: history and theater.

My second location is Colonial Williamsburg. My parents took me to Colonial Williamsburg when I was nine years old and it’s where my passion for history was born. Ever since that summer, Williamsburg has held a very special place in my heart. I’m fortunate to have worked and learned in both of these locations and they have both contributed to the teacher that I am today.

Georgette Hackman with students on a trip to New York CityWhat advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
I would ask these young people to close their eyes and remember their favorite teacher or teachers. To go further, I would ask them what their lives would be like had they never met those special teachers. If you contemplate the void that would be left in our lives by never having a truly great teacher, you suddenly realize the potential impact of an educator. Our profession desperately needs smart, passionate, and dedicated people. Sometimes the struggles in education are better documented than our triumphs. It’s up to teachers like me and my colleagues to spread the notion that teaching is not just a job, it’s the ability to change a life forever. Come and join the profession that creates all other professions!

Who is your favorite historian?
ALL OF THEM! Choosing just one is impossible. Stephen Knott, David McCullough, David Blight, and Doris Kearns Goodwin are at the top of my list right now, but that list is always growing and changing.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The eighteenth century and the American Founding. Not only is it what I teach, but it is also where my passion lies. The colonial and Revolutionary periods were the first area that I studied at length and are by far my favorite topics to teach. I have been blessed to have participated in teacher institutes at Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg as well as being named a James Madison Fellow. All of these experiences have contributed to my passion and knowledge about this time period.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Right now, anything pertaining to the Broadway musical Hamilton is white hot in middle school. Any topic that I can somehow relate to the musical is suddenly exciting and captivating for my students.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Paul Howard, Washington DC

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Paul Howard:


Paul Howard, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
2017 District of Columbia History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The National Archives. This may be DC bias, but the Archives is the American history gold mine. Apart from the founding documents, the Archives have the most fascinating documents and exhibits that highlight our macro history and, more importantly, our micro histories.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Most people who have entered the field of education do so because they want to help children achieve an elevated quality of life. Often times when you say that you are a teacher, people will replay with “Oh, I bet that is a rewarding job.” As they should, because it is a rewarding career. However, what you are never told during teacher training is that your failures will linger much longer than your successes. If you plan, teach, and seek professional development with the full effort and passion required by the profession, then you will have phenomenal triumphs and change the course of people’s lives. This is the ultimate professional satisfaction and these are the stories teachers tell themselves and each other. The stories that do not get told are the ones that potential teachers should know about.

It is impossible for a teacher to satisfy all the needs of all their students. No one person can pass on enough wisdom, knowledge, and love to children to prevent all of them from suffering. While most people understand this conceptually at a societal level, teachers experience this first hand. At some point you will fail as a teacher, and that failure will impact a child. Your failures will have names and faces attached to them. A teacher is not the sole reason for a student’s success, nor is a teacher the sole reason for their failure; however, young teachers should know that they will experience both and they both shape you as an educator.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Toussaint Louverture because he was a historical crossroads in human form. The man was a slave, a slave owner, a businessman, a general, a politician, and a writer. His perspective was unique in a world of revolutions and I would love to hear what he thought.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The Big Short. It is not quite a “historical” film yet, but it will be, and it does an excellent job of documenting a prevalent mentality in America at the turn of the millennia.


Check out photos of Paul Howard with his students below:

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Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Caroline Young, Minnesota

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Caroline Young:


Caroline Young, Rockford High School
2017 Minnesota State History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
I could do a whole booklist here. Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides, The Black Count by Tom Reiss, Appetite for America by Stephen Fried, and The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson stand out from the last few summers.

I’m teaching Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand this year. I had a few kids pilot it last year, and I was impressed with the connection they made with Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand’s telling made the past more relevant for my readers. The kids tend to see wars as fought by their grandpas and uncles, not really seeing or understanding that during the war, these men, in their late teens and twenties, were basically their own age with very similar lives. Establishing that relevance can be the hardest (and most important) lesson.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
When I was young, my parents took my brothers and me on these wonderful road trips that I have since come to see as essential to my education and even my own identity. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, is one of the museums that I visited as a kid that set me up to love the past—exciting and fantastic and romantic. And as an adult I see that lovely complication of theatricality in some of its collections.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Get into a classroom. Set up an observation schedule with your mom’s friend who teaches 4th grade or your aunt the librarian. If you find yourself helping, participating, volunteering, these are pretty good signs. There are many schools and programs needing volunteers, and indeed some education programs require those volunteer experiences for admission.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the boys and their telephone booth time machine bring Abe Lincoln, Socrates, Joan of Arc, and others to the present so Bill and Ted can pass history, graduate, and become the leaders of the free world. I’ve graduated high school and have no aspirations to lead the free world, so I’d be more personally reflective. I’d take my phone booth to my great-grandmother’s hometown in Poland at the turn of the 1900s. I’d like to know what she left behind when she made her way to Minneapolis as a teenager. I’d like to have that context for my own history.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I am a tremendous fan of PBS’s American Experience. It’s a running joke in my honors class that I will recommend on a regular basis that they supplement their coursework with this or that segment of this or that episode. They give me odd looks when I tell them “Tupperware!” is great for a glimpse of the consumerism, gender roles, and politics of the 1950s. I use all of “The Civilian Conservation Corps” in all of my US history classes. That film is structured around the testimony of five men who served in the CCC. My students grew up hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping in the parks and on the trails the CCC was responsible for—it gives their own experiences more context.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I love almost all of it and actively work to make the stuff I like less more interesting to keep the kids engaged.



National Friendship Day: August 6

Marquis de Lafayette to Henry Knox, January 8, 1784 (Gilder Lehrman Collection).Today is National Friendship Day, and to celebrate, we’re showcasing a vivid letter from the Gilder Lehrman Collection that shows the enduring strength of friendship forged in war. In January 1784, the Marquis de Lafayette, back home in France, wrote a warm letter to Henry Knox. Both men had served as generals in the Revolutionary War, and the hardships and triumphs they shared had nurtured a strong bond. Lafayette affirmed his attachment to Knox despite their great distance, and implored his friend to keep in touch:

You know my tender affection to you, my dear knox, it is Engraved in my Heart, and I shall keep it as long as I live - from the Begining of our great Revolution which Has Been the Begining of our Acquaintance, we Have Been Actuated By the same principles, [impressed] with the same ideas, Attached to the same friends, and we Have warmly loved and Confidentially Entrusted each other.

Lafayette, while happy to hear that peace was being restored in America, admitted that he had mixed feelings about the disbanding of the Continental Army and the scattering of the men he called brothers. He lamented,

I Could not Help sighing at the first news that the Continental Army was no more – We Have so intimately so Brotherly lived together, We Have Had so much to fear, so much to Hope, we Have United ourselves through to many Changes of fortune, that the parting Moment Cannot But Be painfull.