Introducing Kelly Holder, the 2018 Idaho History Teacher of the Year

Kelly Holder 

Idaho History Teacher of the Year 

Kelly Holder, Maple Grove Elementary School, Boise, IdahoSince 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. The 2018 State History Teachers of the Year were asked informal questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.  

Do you have a favorite/funny moment from teaching?

Several years ago, on the first day of school, a student asked me how old I was, and I made the “mistake” of asking him how old he thought I was. Impishly, he declared that I was 400 years old, so I responded, “Yes, but I make 400 look good!” It comes in handy during history lessons when they ask me if I was present for an event being learned about, and I can describe it as if I experienced it. 

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

I am originally (and proudly) from Kalamazoo, Michigan, but have happily called Boise, Idaho, home for the past seven years. The city of Boise was established in 1863, the year Idaho became a territory, and people flocked here first due to a gold rush and then as a stop on the Oregon Trail. 

What was the last great history book you read?

The book The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown kept me captivated. 

What is your favorite historical site or museum?

Locally, I find it fascinating that I live one block from the Oregon Trail, which makes my imagination run wild as I explore my neighborhood, or the Old Idaho Penitentiary, which opened in 1872 and is a fascinating look at life, death, and crime in the Old West. 

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

I have always been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson. Much of what I have learned about him supports the idea that he was intelligent, curious, and innovative. I see him as a profoundly flawed individual, and would want to ask him how the author of some of the most inspiring words ever written in the Declaration of Independence could justify owning more than 600 slaves in his lifetime and espousing views about the inferiority of black people to whites. 

What is your favorite historical film or series?

I am a massive fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, recently made into a STARZ television series. Through the story, I have enjoyed learning about Scottish history surrounding the Jacobite uprising in the 1740s, as well as the French court of King Louis XV and life in the Caribbean and American colonies at the time leading up to the American Revolution.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?

My personal interest in the American Revolution and the events leading up to it must translate to my instruction in that unit, as students have often remarked that it was their favorite of the entire school year. 

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