Introducing Amy King, the 2019 North Carolina History Teacher of the Year and National Finalist

Amy King

North Carolina History Teacher of the Year and Finalist for National History Teacher of the Year

2019 North Carolina State History Teacher of the Year Amy King in her classroom at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, North CarolinaSince 2004, 802 exemplary American history teachers from elementary, middle, and high schools in all fifty states, Department of Defense schools, Washington DC, and US territories have been named State History Teacher of the Year. The National History Teacher of the Year is named in the fall. The ten 2019 Finalists for National History Teacher of the Year were asked informal questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Do you have a favorite/funny moment from teaching?

My favorite moment in the classroom was when the classes of 2016 and 2019 each presented me with cardboard cut-outs of Elvis Presley and George Washington as surprise gifts; the students signed the back of the cut-out and wrote why my class was his/her favorite. It was a very sweet gesture.

Tell us one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in. 

I live in Chatham County near a historic district called Mount Vernon Springs. Mineral water that legend said has “healing powers” flows here and was once used by area Native Americans. Later, a relative of George Washington, John Washington, inspired the renaming of the area to Mount Vernon Springs from Ore Hill. A hotel-resort was built bringing in tourists to visit the springs. Soft drinks were once bottled on this location using the water and shipped throughout the Carolinas by way of the railroad; however, the Great Depression caused the resort to close in 1931.

What was the last great history book you read?

My favorite recent historical readings are The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed and Grant by Ron Chernow. Both works changed my thinking and teaching of slavery, race, and African American rights. I reference these works often when I teach American history.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?

My favorite historical site is Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (@PoplarForest). My two favorite museums are the National Portrait Gallery (@smithsoniannpg) in Washington DC and the National WWII Museum (@WWIImuseum) in New Orleans LA.

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, there are two conversations I wish to have. First, I would like to converse with Meriwether Lewis. I would share with him his journal entry of July 27, 1806, and begin a cross-examination. Did he alter this story in any way to appease President Jefferson? Were he and his party really not at fault for this violent encounter with the Blackfeet? I would also like to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and hear him read his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in person. Wouldn’t that just be amazing? His “Letter” is my favorite primary source document to teach as its words are so powerful. His example of leadership is one of the greatest in American history.

What is your favorite historical film or series?

In historical films/series, my favorites are John Adams and Band of Brothers.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?

Overall, my students’ favorite unit of study is the 1960s—Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. We watch excerpts from Eyes on the Prize and go on a Civil Rights walking tour of Durham, NC, with a local historian. Students also research a fallen graduate of our school who served in Vietnam, hear his brother read the letters he mailed home, and experience a walking classroom learning trail, The Ho Chi Minh Trail. Outdoors along the trail we study primary source documents and photographs related to the war.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?

For those considering education I would say to seek out your passion; explore while in college by taking one course each year in something you have an interest in but are not required to take; sign up to tutor or conduct mini-lessons in a school nearby and see if you enjoy the atmosphere and the children. Choose an area of study you are passionate about and would want to share with others.

Click here to nominate a teacher for the 2020 state and national awards.