Introducing Daniel Jocz, the 2018 California History Teacher of the Year

Daniel Jocz

California History Teacher of the Year

Since 2004, 749 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. Winners of the 2018 State History Teacher of the Year Award were asked to answer informal interview questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Do you have a favorite/funny moment from teaching?    
One time during a lesson on the events leading up to the American Revolution I noticed students struggling to stay focused. I decided to briefly abandon my lesson and told students we were going to sing the song the participants of the Boston Tea Party sang prior to the dumping of the tea. I projected the lyrics and played the instrumental for the children’s song “I’m a little teapot.” Students had fun singing the song and I was shocked that some students actually thought I was serious about the song being created during the famous protest. Two lessons were learned by my students: never believe everything you hear and always be willing to be spontaneous in class.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The Los Angeles Dodgers got their name from their time in Brooklyn and the fact that pedestrians had to “dodge” trolley cars. The Los Angeles Lakers got their name from the fact that they came from Minneapolis, Minnesota, known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” 

What was the last great history book you read?
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham. I am shocked that nobody has made a movie about the guy who hated banks but is on the $20 bill.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The various sites of the D-Day invasion in Normandy provide so many amazing museums, memorials, and opportunities to appreciate the sacrifice and bravery displayed in 1944. 

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
My grandfather Ignatius Jocz, whose father came from Poland via Ellis Island and who fought in World War II—to learn not only about my own family history, but also about his experiences fighting during the Battle of the Bulge.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The film All the Way with Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students come from neighborhoods as diverse as South Central, East Los Angeles, and Chinatown. My favorite topic is showing students that the story of America is one of many different groups struggling to have America live up to its ideals for all people. 

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
If you love young people and the content, you will do well in the profession. If you can’t say yes to both, then you probably should think about doing something else. Also . . . marry somebody rich. I married another teacher and the financial struggle is real.

Click here to nominate a teacher for the 2019 state and national awards.