Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Mari Harris, Idaho

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 Mari Harris:


Mari Harris, Vallivue High School
2017 Idaho Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
One of my first years of teaching, my students were having a hard time grasping how big a deal the Reformation was to the Catholic Church and the movement of settlers to the New World. All of a sudden (in high heels) I stepped onto an empty desk and declared myself the center of the universe, portraying the power of the Catholic Church. Students sat in silence, some with mouths gaping open in disbelief. Standing on top of desks (much like Robin Williams) has become my signature move in the classroom. The first time I do it in the school year (for this Reformation unit) is always a shock to students because they never expect a teacher in high heels to do it. I always do it a few of times in the year to show and emphasize big ideas and get students’ attention. During our AP US History Cold War Dinner Party, I stand on a desk and declare myself World Peace, necessary to stop conflicts and world wars from breaking out. Standing on top of desks gives students a chance to see a different side of my teaching and is a great way to make important points that students will never forget! It also allows students to make comments about my shoes, wonder if they could stand on desks, worry for my safety, and ask if the custodians know I stand on desks. Of course this is one of many moments and memories in teaching . . . who could forget getting caught by students while rapping Hamilton in my classroom when I thought I was alone!

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
In Caldwell in 1905, the former governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, was mortally wounded when he opened the gate to his yard and triggered a bomb. The bomb was put there by Harry Orchard, who implicated the Western Mine Workers Union. Industrial Workers of the World leader Big Bill Haywood was charged with conspiracy for murder and was defended by Clarence Darrow in Boise. This would become Idaho’s Trial of the Century. Orchard was eventually found guilty and Haywood, innocent.

What is the last great history book you read?
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. I loved reading about the Lusitania and seeing the irony of how much information was out there about the potential for its destruction. Erik Larson is my favorite historical author right now!

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The Idaho State Historical Museum! It has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Dressing up like Lewis and Clark or an Idaho Potato, seeing DejaMoo (a two headed calf), or imagining life in a Chinese store were always favorite parts of my visits. I loved taking my children there to experience our state’s great history and enjoy the museum’s outdoor exhibits as well. Now the museum is under construction and I can’t wait for the new exhibits and my annual Mother’s Day trip there! If you ever come to Idaho, it is a great place to visit.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education, but are unsure?
Education is one of the most rewarding careers. Being a teacher is more than delivering lessons to prepare students for a test, it is about preparing students for life. When they walk out of school, they need to know how to survive and be good members of society. As an educator you need to love what you do. Don’t think that teaching is something that will grow on you. Be passionate from day one and your students will respond to that! If you are unsure, sign up to volunteer in classrooms, tutor, or find a way to get into classrooms and observe what teachers do. Then, if you have a chance, interact with the students and talk with teachers about their job. Teachers are happy to share their knowledge and experiences, so please ask!

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
There are so many people I'd like to meet: Jonathan Edwards, John and Abigail Adams, Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, and Harry Truman. I guess I would have to say, in the end, I would choose Abigail Adams! Abigail Adams was a key figure in the Revolution that we forget about. Women played a huge role in the war at home, and organizing boycotts and spinning bees and educating children about the rights of citizenship were all demonstrated by Adams. She was an outstanding First Lady and at times persuaded John Adams to think outside the box in regards to policy, personal situations, and dealing with Adams’ struggles as President. She was one of the first advocates for women’s rights and demonstrated the ability of women to think and educate themselves while raising children. Of course, you cannot forget the memorable letters between her and John. I would ask her what kept their marriage strong, how society can influence the raising of new leaders in a turbulent time, and what motivated her. What encouraged Abigail to keep fighting during the Revolution? How did she endure the role of First Lady and what was her take on the relationship between her husband and Thomas Jefferson?

Who is your favorite historian?
Carol Berkin. So many history books relish the achievements of men, while Berkin introduces so many fantastic women from our country’s history. Her book on Civil War wives looks at the mindsets and accomplishments of women during that era. I love the individuals that Berkin chooses to highlight in all of her books, some well known but many not. I consider myself a social historian, and what I love about Berkin’s work is that she tells people’s stories so we can weave them into the national narrative as enrichment and further understanding. It is so important to know what the people experiencing history were doing and thinking, and Berkin does a great job with this! I have had the opportunity to be at a conference with Berkin and her session was amazing. I went out and reread all of her books because of her passion for history!

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie and book of all time, however it really isn’t historical. I would probably say almost anything by Ken Burns has to be a favorite. Prohibition and The Civil War are my favorite Ken Burns series because they highlight individual stories. I think of myself as a social historian because I want students to understand the impact of all things on the individual. Ken Burns does a great job with this in his series! (Side note: Hamilton is my favorite historical musical!)

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I have two because of the courses I teach (US History 1 and US History 2). First, I love teaching the era of American colonial settlement. The dynamic challenges and new opportunities the settlers had upon arrival and settlement intrigues me and gets me excited to teach every year. My students get the opportunity to create their own colonies as part of this era. Talking about reasons for settlement and relating it back to the settlement of Idaho and our local challenges is also a great way to reflect on this topic. I also love teaching the Roaring ’20s. Studying social changes for minorities, the impact of WWI, and new ideologies intrigue both students and myself. I love investigating photographs and personal accounts of this time with students! Digging into crime, education and, of course, prohibition, are all topics of great interest for me and that means I get to go crazy in the classroom.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
That is a hard question, but I generally think students love studying the Civil War because it happened in the United States and contains so much political, social, and conflicting topics to study. Students love researching battles that we don’t go over in class and sharing them with peers, writing haiku poetry from each side’s perspective, and comparing documents about causes and impacts. This is always a student favorite, but I think there are many different time periods students can get excited about (they like the Jacksonian Era because Jackson isn’t my favorite president and they love playing devil’s advocate).



Announcing Our Library Programming Grant Recipients

Twice a year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Library Affiliate Program awards six $400 grants to public and university libraries to hold K–12 student-focused programming in American history. Learn what the Fall 2017 grant recipients have planned: 

Central City Public Library (Central City, NE) is planning two programs. The first, for grades 2–4, ties in with the school curriculum and teaches Native American history, discussing the Pawnee Indians who lived in Merrick County, where the library is located. The second program, for grades 5–12 and the general public, will teach about the events of 9/11 and honor the fallen soldiers of subsequent wars.

Grand Saline Public Library (Grand Saline, TX) is planning programming with a local museum, the Grand Saline Salt Palace. They will present programs about the Caddo Indians, who were the first to source salt from the Grand Saline salt flats. The program seeks to educate children—particularly those in grades 4–5—about local history and raise enthusiasm for a new museum that is under construction.

Independence Public Library (Independence, KS) is planning a series of programs about the history of local and national advocacy, civil rights, and civics. The program will shine a light on the African American civil rights movement, women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and others, targeting high school students and teaching about the history of advocacy, modern movements, and how students can get involved with issues they care about.

Middle Country Public Library (Centerreach, NY) is planning to collaborate with the Long Island Museum for a set of two programs that will teach kids about life in nineteenth-century America through primary source documents. Students will analyze paintings and learn about the artist William Sidney Mount and his life. The program is targeted toward students in grades 3–5.

Person County Public Library (Roxboro, NC) will purchase materials that will allow them to put on a series of five programs that engage students ages 8+ in learning major themes and events in American history through games and activities. When the programming is over, the library will make the materials available for future programs and for use by groups like the local homeschooling community.

Troy Public Library (Troy, NY) is planning a series of local history and daily life programs designed for specific age groups. A program designed for grades K–1 will teach about nineteenth-century home life and the kinds of games children played; a K–3 program will use local artifacts to teach about the history of the earliest inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley; a grade 3–5 program will teach about the construction of the Erie Canal; and a grade 3–8 program will teach about the Iroquious and the Great Law of Peace. 



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Danny Waldo, Montana, and Rebecca Helland, Iowa

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 Danny Waldo and Rebecca Helland:


Danny Waldo, Hyalite Elementary School
2017 Montana History Teacher of the Year

What was the last great history book you read?
The last great history book I read was Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson. It tells the story of Gil Winant, who had recently been named the ambassador to Great Britain after Joseph Kennedy returned to the United States, as well as the stories of Averell Harriman and Edward R. Murrow. Harriman was put in charge of President Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program, while Murrow became famous for his broadcasts during the Battle of Britain. All three were instrumental in getting the United States fully behind the British in World War II.

Who is your favorite historian?
Stephen Ambrose. Although he is best known for his coverage of World War II, Ambrose’s most famous work is Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis and Clark expedition. The book hits close to home because part of the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled through my hometown and the Gallatin Valley. Ambrose had an uncanny ability to tell the story of history, and it is something that I try to emulate when teaching my 5th graders.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
My favorite historical museum locally is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY, about a four-hour drive from my hometown, but well worth my time. I also like to visit the Museum of Flight, particularly the WWII wing, whenever I am in Seattle. However, I am really looking forward to visiting the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Although I am a huge fan of Ken Burns’s PBS documentaries, my favorite historical series would have to be Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the two HBO-produced mini-series about the European and Pacific theaters of World War II. Both series do an outstanding job of portraying the struggles our country faced in achieving victory, and they do an equally good job presenting the human side of the war and the impact it had at home and abroad.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
My favorite historical topic to study is World War II. There is something fascinating to me about how the whole country rallied together to defeat the Axis powers, and it’s a discussion we have quite frequently in my class. What types of sacrifices would we be willing to make in today’s world? The inspiring stories of this era are endless, and it is an easy topic to get my students interested and excited about.



Rebecca Helland, Jefferson Intermediate School
2017 Iowa History Teacher of the Year

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Pella, Iowa, was founded by a group of 800 people in 1847. Imagine the complexity of moving a group that size! A few years later, this small town in Iowa also became the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I’d love to meet Benjamin Franklin. I have a feeling that he was an ornery old codger whose problem-solving mind was always spinning but whose maverick tendencies prevented him from complying with political status quo of the time. That would make for some great conversation!

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I could watch Remember the Titans over and over. I thought the film Lincoln was very eye-opening into the complexities of and sometimes morally questionable political practices that seemed to be expected and normal within politics.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
Honestly, I don’t. My favorite historical topic is whichever one I’m currently working on with kids. History becomes relevant to kids when they are analyzing historical events in order to help them make decisions about their current world. For example, kids look at primary sources from the events in colonial Boston that led to the Declaration of Independence as a way of looking at how unresolved conflict escalates. Kids then look at conflict in their own lives and understand options for working through that conflict along with possible outcomes of unresolved conflict.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Students love digging into primary sources and examining the details of what happened in a certain event. They enjoying predicting people’s motives and asking great questions. I’d have to guess that if you asked my students, they would say that they enjoyed learning about the history of Pella, our town, because it’s a complex and interesting story along with being our own story.



Thanksgiving and the Civil War

In October 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on all Americans “in every part of the United States . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” In doing so, Lincoln followed a long tradition of religious, political, and military leaders issuing proclamations of thanksgiving to inspire and unify Americans in difficult times.

Though the United States was embroiled in a bloody and destructive civil war, President Lincoln reminded the nation that there was still much to be thankful for: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies . . . Peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed every where, except in the theatre of military conflict.”

Harper’s Weekly published the Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 17 and printed a two-page engraving by Thomas Nast on December 5. In the video below, Beth Huffer, curator of books and manuscripts, explains the significance of the engraving:

For more on Thanksgiving, read “A History of the Thanksgiving Holiday” by Catherine Clinton from History Now 4: American National Holidays.



Gilder Lehrman Institute at National Council for the Social Studies Conference

GLI Director of Education Tim Bailey speaks to teachers on the importance of usiThe Gilder Lehrman Institute was on the scene at the 97th National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference, held November 15–19 in San Francisco, California. The Institute held a conference session on using Teaching Literacy through History techniques and primary sources to teach World War I in the classroom, and met social studies educators from all over the country.

Thank you to all who attended our session or dropped by our booth to learn more about Gilder Lehrman programs, including the Affiliate School Program, Teacher Seminars, Teaching Literacy through History, digital collections, and more!



David Dinkins Reflects on His Term as New York City Mayor

A recent article in the New York Times evaluates the 1990–1993 term of Mayor David Dinkins, the first (and, to date, only) African American mayor of New York City. Addressing the popular conception that Dinkins did nothing to stop the city’s infamously high crime rates, which had been steadily climbing for several decades, the article argues that, thanks to Dinkins’ efforts, the city saw a small but significant decrease in crime rates for the first time in thirty years.

In this 2013 interview with James Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, Dinkins discusses his proudest achievements during his term, which include increasing funding for public libraries, passing a “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative to combat crime, and welcoming Nelson Mandela to the the city after his release from prison in South Africa in 1990. Watch a clip from the interview below:



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Brenda Mayes and Andrew Lincoln Smith

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 Brenda Mayes and Andrew Lincoln Smith:


Brenda Mayes, Bates Elementary School
2017 Michigan History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
Churchill: A Life, by Martin Gilbert. An excellent, well-researched portrait of a fascinating man.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
Greenfield Village, part of The Henry Ford historic site in Dearborn, Michigan, features the homes of industrialists Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford, Thomas Edison's laboratory, Luther Burbank's field office, as well as transplanted slave cabins and a plantation home, and steam locomotives. We take our fifth graders there every year; it's a perfect match for our history curriculum.

Who is your favorite historian?
My favorite historians are Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, Isaac’s Storm) and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film is The Gathering Storm about Winston Churchill.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Our Port Austin Reef lighthouse was built in 1877; prior to that, townspeople attached a lantern to the top of a cedar post to warn steamships. On the right is a photo of my grandparents, Ed and Lucy Mayes (center, he holding his beagle, Lady) on a winter trip to the lighthouse, which stands on a shoal 1.3 miles offshore.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I’d love to meet Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because of his personal resilience, and his strength in leading our country out of the Great Depression and through World War II. I’d also maybe get to meet Eleanor and his dog, Fala, in the bargain!

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 advice to potential teachers would be: if you have a passion for teaching, nothing is more rewarding than that aha! moment in the classroom. I’ve been fortunate to learn from two previous Gilder Lehrman winners, Michele Anderson and Anthony Salciccioli, that there is no other profession capable of elevating your students and fellow educators as much as teaching.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I’m intrigued by the 1920s; it was a Golden Age for the arts and architecture, as well as a time of growth for our country.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My fifth grade boys and girls find the Civil War era fascinating. Many of my students also develop an interest in World War II and the Vietnam War from our veterans’ classroom visits.



Andrew Lincoln Smith, Scecina Memorial High School
2017 Indiana History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
One of my favorite moments is still the time a student finally figured out that a “compass rose” was not actually a rose diagram hidden in the map like a Where’s Waldo puzzle.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Fort Edward, New York, the town that I grew up in, was a fairly major part of the Seven Years’ and Revolutionary Wars. It’s also considered the birthplace of the US Army Rangers.

What is the last great history book you read?
Most recent was The Return of Martin Guerre. Fantastic work, reads like a novel, and is great exposure to peasant life for students who are unfamiliar with the sixteenth century.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
Fort Ticonderoga is hands down my favorite. Great place for immersion, fantastic museum, and the views of the Adirondacks are unparalleled.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Aaron Burr. The whole “I’m not happy, so let’s start an army and commit treason” thing still just doesn’t entirely make sense to me, even after studying it for years. I really would love to know if he was as arrogant as some historians make him out to be.

Who is your favorite historian?
Walter Johnson is perhaps my favorite living historian, but Kenneth C. Davis is a close second.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I would say that Seven Years in Tibet is one of my favorites. Not a strictly historical film, but based on the experiences of Heinrich Harrer, it really shows a different side of the conflict during WWII, and is a great film on immersion, cultural diffusion, and assimilation.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Gilded Age is what I focused on for my master’s degree. I’m partial to Soviet studies as well.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Many of my students are interested in the 9/11 era. It has a direct consequence to them, but is not so far off that they can’t sympathize with the tensions and issues.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Sarah Crossingham and Michael Green

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 Sarah Crossingham and Michael Green:


Sarah Crossingham, Wishek High School
2017 North Dakota History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
This past school year my school staff was involved in a book study. Our final project was to create a Student Appreciation Week. We had so much fun planning and implementing this in our school. We had games and activities planned for each day, including a one-act play (with teachers as the actors), a school-wide capture the flag, and a color run. It ended with taping our superintendent to the gym wall.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
One fun fact I like to show my students are all the infrastructures the WPA created in Wishek, North Dakota, during the Great Depression—many of which are still used today. The Civic Center, the Wishek Swimming Pool, and sidewalks all around town have WPA markings and explanations.

What is the last great history book you read?
A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi. This book dives into the connections between mental illness and the effectiveness of leaders throughout history. Leaders explored include Napoleon, Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, and others.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Mary, Queen of Scots. Her story is fascinating, and I would be interested to hear her ideas on how to unite the divided Scotland and try to take the English throne from Elizabeth I.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Schindler’s List, without a doubt. I feel that every student should watch, evaluate, and learn from this film. It shows the harsh reality of the Holocaust and the true story of a man trying to do the right thing.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
My favorite topic to teach is the court case Marbury v. Madison. I love turning this case into a twisted story time for my students. I really play up the backstabbing, twists, and turns, then finally the loophole to resolve the case.



Michael Green, Caesar Rodney High School
2017 Delaware History Teacher of the Year

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The region I live in was a site of coal mining at its height in the early 1900s.

What is the last great history book you read?
American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I love to use Stanford University’s website Reading Like a Historian, which is great for resources.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Make sure that you are passionate about the subject and you have to have patience—if not, don’t bother!

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
This is cliché, but I really want to meet Abraham Lincoln and see for myself what he was like.

Who is your favorite historian?
I really enjoyed learning from Gary Gallagher from the University of Virginia at my summer teacher seminar, and have liked the books I have read by him.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film is between is a tight race between Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, and Glory.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I really enjoy the Civil War era, specifically the war and its lead up and aftermath.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
They usually like WWII and Vietnam, or the 1950s–1970s.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Barbara Kraft, Oregon

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 Barbara Kraft:


Barbara Kraft, Liberty High School
2017 Oregon History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
Toward the end of the year in 2016, the objective for the day was understanding the impact of the Iran-Contra scandal. The lesson I planned was derailed as students kept asking questions I had not anticipated. We ended up having an incredible, unplanned discussion. At the end, one student shouted out, “I learned more in the last 45 minutes than I ever have from Twitter!” After telling this story at lunch, a fellow teacher typed up the quote and hung it in my classroom over my desk. It is a good reminder that sometimes I make an impact, and when I do, it feels amazing!

What is the last great history book you read?
I just finished Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. It added to my understanding of the Space Race and offered me another perspective of American history. I highly recommended it to my students and others. I am impressed at how skillfully the author blended history, science and social issues. It also made me wonder what other untold history needs to be explored. History is perspective and more perspectives need to be added to further the rich complexities of this nation’s history.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I grew up in Butte, Montana, which touts itself as “Montana’s Most Historic City.” There is a World Museum of Mining behind Montana Tech. Throughout my youth, we regularly visited the museum (as it was free!). It is 22 acres of buildings that are set up like a mining town. There are replications of a saloon, blacksmith, eye glass doctor and an old time grocery. There is also a school house with a swing in the back where I would play with my sisters. There was a Chinese laundry and a sauerkraut factory, both giving credit to the immigrants who settled and built the city. Finally, there was the Orphan Girl mine that we could explore and really see what it was like to be a miner in the early 20th century. These tours taught me to love history and to respect the people that have come to this country to make a living and contributed to the growth of our nation. This museum let me be a part of history as I walked down the streets and imagined what it would have been like to live in that time. It still stands today. My last visit was July 3, 2008 as I shared my childhood memories with my husband and son. I remember it well because men in dark suits were roaming the old-time streets and it was odd. I only understood why when I saw the broadcast the next day of Barack Obama at the World Museum of Mining during his first campaign!

What is your favorite historical film or series?
John Jakes’ North and South was extremely impactful on my love of history. I was in high school when the miniseries debuted on television. It hooked my interest in the Civil War and I wanted to know more. I clearly remember where the books were on the shelf in the library. I read all three books in the series, and then asked the librarian if there were more books like this. The librarian helped me find more historical fiction, which is still my favorite genre for pleasure reading today. These novels also made me want to know more and led me to read nonfiction books about history.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I am very passionate about the Progressive Era. It includes women’s suffrage, advancement of Civil Rights and the national conversation about the role of government in citizens’ lives. My students read excerpts from Teddy Roosevelt, Alice Paul, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida Tarbell, Andrew Carnegie, Upton Sinclair, and several immigrant stories. It is an era that has accessible primary documents that offer multiple perspectives that lead to rich discussions with many connects to present day.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students seem to “turn on” when we get to the Civil Rights era. It is toward the end of the year, and students have fine-tuned their skills of academic reading and writing and are more confident in their abilities. In this unit students can focus more on the content. One of my favorite lessons is analyzing excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct” and Robert Kennedy’s “Speech on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.” Each year, student engagement is high, and they get goosebumps as we listen to King and Kennedy speak. At the end of the lesson, students reflect on the words spoken by these two men and make a statement about how they want to be remembered or what they want to make of our nation. Reading their reflections is inspiring. I hang them in the hallway and love when I see other students stop and read.



A Veterans Day Exploration of the Vietnam War

In honor of Veterans Day, we are reposting our resources on the Vietnam War, a post originally created to coincide with the premiere of Ken Burns The Vietnam War. Explore Vietnam Warrelated 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.



Honoring Sara Ziemnik, 2017 History Teacher of the Year

Historian Eric Foner presents Sara Ziemnik with the 2017 NHTOY Award.On November 8, Sara Ziemnik was honored as the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year at a ceremony in New York City, where Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Eric Foner presented Ziemnik with her award and a prize of $10,000. 

Two of Ziemnik’s students from Rocky River High School, Adam Hackett and Julia Paynard, took the stage to praise Ziemnik for her innovative and exciting teaching style, which awakened not only their love of history, but an appreciation of its impact on the present day.

In accepting her award, Ziemnik spoke of the importance of bringing controversial topics, past and present, into the classroom as a way to encourage students to form their own opinions based on evidence and respectful dialogue.

“Any silence [is] a statement . . . and silence is a dangerous choice,” she told the packed room of teachers, students, historians, and Gilder Lehrman Institute partners. Having difficult discussions, according to Ziemnik, helps students grow into civic-minded and politically engaged adults able to think critically and form educated opinions. 

Sara Ziemnik gives her acceptance speech.Ziemnik ended her speech by discussing the importance of studying American history. “I tell my students that we did not create the past, but we have inherited it. The fabric of history is woven into us and into our American story. . . . We have to be relentless in our drive to understand where we have been so that we can comprehend who we are today and where we are going.” 

Ziemnik has taught American history and world history for seventeen years at Rocky River High School, where she encourages her students to learn from one another, centering her classroom around debate, discussion, and inquisitive learning. She deploys digital tools and works with the local community to bring the past alive for her students. Among her projects was a partnership with Cleveland State University to create and add content to the “Cleveland Historical” app, where students can explore Cleveland history via interactive tours.

Congratulations, Sara!


 


Nominations for the 2018 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors may nominate K12 teachers for the award at gilderlehrman.org/nhtoy.

 


Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Kristanne Heaton, DoDEA

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 Kristanne Heaton:



Kristanne Heaton, WT Sampson Middle/High School, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
2017 Department of Defense Education Activity History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
It didn’t seem funny at the time, but I look back now and laugh at the student who asked right before the APUSH test, “Now, we won the Revolutionary War, right?” Some of my favorite memories are when a class is totally engaged in a lesson—the French Revolution game, the WWI simulation, or the primary sources investigation of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. However, my all-time favorite memories are the students who have confided in me at the end of the course that they plan to study history or become history teachers.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The “town” I lived in when I won the DoDEA History Teacher of the Year Award, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has a very interesting history. My biggest challenge is really just choosing which fact I should share. Its mere existence is an interesting historical fact, and the plaque commemorating the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494 is surely interesting, too. The fact that the shuttered and guarded border displays a quote from Jose Marti is fascinating. But the fact that you drive by the remnants of the infamous Camp X-Ray on the way back from seeing the border holds an ironic power certainly not lost on this history teacher. The Battle for Cuzco Well happened here in the Spanish-American War, but my personal favorite is the battle that took place here in Guantanamo Bay between the British and the Spanish in the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Best name ever!

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I love all historical sites, of course! As someone who specialized in early Christian art in graduate school, I will always appreciate the layers of history one can explore in Rome. But the American history teacher in me has really loved living in Guantanamo Bay for that same reason. My most recent favorite was a visit to the Tenement Museum in New York City. Again, it was an amazing testament to the layers of history and culture immigrants have brought to the United States.

Who is your favorite historian?
I enjoy exploring new perspectives on history. Jared Diamond’s interdisciplinary, wide-reaching approach really influenced how I think about history, as did the innovative socio-biologist, E.O. Wilson. I also have always loved the work of Michael Camille, medieval art historian, who wrote about the “margins” (both the art found there, and the lives lived there). But the historian I read most often is probably Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What is the last great history book you read?
Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. It is taking me longer than usual to read because I have to stop and sing every song from the musical in my head before I can keep reading. But I’ll continue striving to be “a hero and a scholar.”

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 think that it is important for teachers to be learners, as well. Find the subjects that interest you and find a way to contribute to the research about that subject. The process of engaging yourself in the discipline will allow you to engage your students more.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
George Washington. This might seem like a cliché for an American history teacher, but I have always wanted to better understand how he saw his position in the American experiment. Did he really “tremble” at his inauguration speech? If so, why? What was he feeling? Scared at the daunting task, or humbled by the power? Was he hoping for greatness or hoping to define a new kind of leadership where he was not supreme? Feelings are something history doesn’t record very well, so that is why he tops my list to meet in person.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Film can be a great tool for teaching, but sometimes the film itself is an invaluable primary source of the era you are studying. For this reason, I love to use Gone with the Wind, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, or Kapra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But my favorite depiction of a historical period is still the epic Gandhi.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
Right now, anything “Hamilton!” I also find America’s role in the Age of Imperialism very interesting. That period of our history seems to be a window into the dual nature of the American character, as we are always trying to define and reimagine our place in the world.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
If they want an “A,” they love studying Alexander Hamilton! Actually, I find that students are always interested in our wars. I think that young people want to understand our greatest conflicts, why they happened, and how we worked through them. Additionally, young people have a great deal of empathy and want to hear about how people got through some of our hardest times. Whether we are studying slavery, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movements, or the internment of the Japanese during WWII, I find these are really powerful topics for my students.



Explore John F. Kennedy with the Gilder Lehrman Institute

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, an event that shocked the nation and has continued to be a source of intrigue for many Americans, as evidenced by the federal government’s recent release of thousands of documents related to the assassination. But how did the events unfold on that day, and how did the news filter through to the American public?

The Gilder Lehrman Collection holds a document that provides insight into the turmoil on November 22: a copy of the Dow Jones ticker tape that tells the story of Kennedy’s assassination in real time. The ticker tape, which reports on the entire day of the assassination, announces concrete news items, including the official pronouncement of Kennedy’s death, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson taking of the oath of office. These facts are interjected with moments of speculation and confusion, as the conditions of the president and vice president are at first unclear, and the police hunt for suspects. Watch Curator Beth Huffer discuss the ticker tape in the video below.

You can read excerpts from the ticker tape here.

Kennedy’s presidency, though cut short, marked a shift in American society and politics, both at home and abroad. Kennedy’s inaugural address, in which he famously told Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country,” set the tone for an era of an intensifying Cold War, a Civil Rights Movement that was gathering momentum in the face of racial injustice, and a youthful energy that would dominate American culture through the sixties. Among the accomplishments that ushered in new American participation in international development, particularly among young people, was the founding of the Peace Corps in 1961.


Follow the links below for more resources on John F. Kennedy and his presidency. Then test your knowledge with our quiz or sign up for our self-paced course on the Kennedy presidency.

Videos

The Origins of the Vietnam War

Featured Primary Sources

JFK on the containment of Communism, 1952
John Kennedy compares US and Soviet military power, 1953
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, 1961



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Rebecca Berry, West Virginia, and Robert Prichard, Missouri

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 Rebecca Berry and Robert Prichard:


Rebecca Berry, Morgantown High School
2017 West Virginia History Teacher of the Year

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
My hometown of Ambridge, PA is about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh and was home to the American Bridge Company. Before closing, the American Bridge Company produced steel that was used to build the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge.

What is the last great history book you read?
Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787 by Catherine Drinker Bowen.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall).

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

Who is your favorite historian?
Miss Windisch, my history teacher in high school who inspired me to become a teacher.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Lincoln or Matewan.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Constitutional Era



Robert Prichard, St. Clair High School
2017 Missouri History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
Early in my career, when a phone was installed in my room, my second hour, which was a very close group, decided the next time someone missed class, we would call and check on them. So when Becky missed class, we called her as class began. When she answered groggily we found out she had blown out her ACL in a late-night away volleyball game. None of us knew she had spent the night in the ER (pre-social media), and was on heavy painkillers. We felt terrible, and had a card and flowers when she returned. No more phone calls to missing students. Today Becky is my son’s kindergarten teacher!

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
In the early 20th century, a St. Louis shoe company wanted to build a factory in the area, and several towns along what was Route 66 competed for the factory. My home town put together the quickest and best bid, winning the factory site. St. Clair flourished, while the other towns are now ghost towns.

What is the last great history book you read?
Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

Who is your favorite historian?
James McPherson.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Band of Brothers

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The US Civil War.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Sixties

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 a calling. They are so very many reasons not to get into education today, but if you feel that passion, nothing else will satisfy. If you are certain that is what you wish to do, you should follow that path.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Theodore Roosevelt, because he came from the privileged class, yet took pains to move America toward a more economically equal footing in his time.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Matthew Heys, Nebraska

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 Matthew Heys:


Matthew Heys, Millard West High School
2017 Nebraska History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
I’m sure there are too many of these to pick just one. I have reached a point in my career where several of my former students have, themselves, entered the profession. That is a powerful moment for an educator, when you see everything come full circle like that.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Today I’m very much a Nebraskan, but I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, so I’ll share a little oddity from “The Lou.” In March of 1803 St. Louis remained under Spanish administration, even though America’s acquisition of Louisiana from Napoleon was just days away. The surrounding region had been nominally French for some time, but actual governance in St. Louis was still subject to Spanish supervision. Civic leaders concluded that St. Louis could not become “American” until, if only briefly, it revisited its French roots. So in a grand ritual spanning 48 hours and involving everyone from the Spanish territorial governor to Lewis and Clark, as well as representatives of France, of course, the Spanish flag was lowered, the French tricolor raised (for about a day), and then it, too, was ceremonially displaced—this time by the stars and stripes. Each raising and lowering proved to be a great excuse for solemn pronouncements, optimistic toasts, occasional fireworks, etc.—and given the fact that Lewis and Clark were headed in my direction next (Omaha), I still feel justified each year in celebrating Three Flags Day from afar.

What is the last great history book you read?
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I had a chance in 2010 to visit the Crimea. The Livadia Palace Museum where the Big Three’s final WWII summit (the Yalta Conference) took place is amazing. The docents acknowledge that many of the original furnishings and artifacts have been lost, but it remains a place where you can descend a flight of stairs and look at the toys of the last Romanov crown prince one minute and stand a few feet from where FDR, Stalin, and Churchill shaped the postwar world the next. It feels like the entire twentieth century smashed into one parlor.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Trust your mentors, but do not discount the value of inexperience. I am sure, having taught almost twenty-five years, I would cringe if I could travel back and see how poorly designed some of my early lessons were, or how ill-prepared I was, in some respects, for teaching. But I also know there are some approaches from those days that—with a lot of adaptation, to be sure—nevertheless survive now. A lot of early teaching does involve, unfortunately, watching a lesson plan self-destruct. But you’d be surprised how often the solution you improvise out of that scenario becomes a technique you can return to again and again.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be, and why?
I have watched too much Doctor Who to be comfortable taking this risk. I know I would do something seemingly innocuous, like lose a contact lens in imperial Persia, and create the preconditions for some terrible, apocalyptic event to unfold when I returned to the present.

Who is your favorite historian?
Barbara Tuchman.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical series is The Day the Universe Changed, and my favorite historical film is A Time for Burning.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
Reconstruction. I get a lot of grief for this, because many of my students want us to linger within the Civil War, whereas my priority is always to spend a lot of time in Reconstruction.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Amy Diegel, Hawaii

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 Amy Diegel:



Amy Diegel, Mililani Waena Elementary School
2017 Hawaii History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. History has always been written by the victors, and I appreciate how this book shows balance and gives credence to much-overlooked aspects of the people and events that have shaped this country. It forces the reader to consider a more encompassing view of not only history, but of life, which inspires me to teach my fourth and fifth grade National History Day students about balance in their own interpretations and analysis of history.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
My favorite historical site is Pearl Harbor—specifically, the Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri. It’s pretty incredible to be standing in the very place the United States joined World War II. The oil slick from the USS Arizona is visible on the surface of the harbor water and is enchantingly beautiful. The way it ebbs and flows is nothing short of balletic . . . but under such beauty lies something so somber and haunting. Standing in the memorial itself is to become entrenched in its history, and fills your heart so full of emotion, it comes out through your eyes by way of tears.

Who is your favorite historian?
Sarah Vowell—what wouldn’t I give to spend an afternoon with her. How cool it is to tell the students I teach that the voice of Violet in The Incredibles has made history funny and engaging for millions of adults! Somehow, it makes history cooler for them too.

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
Teaching one of my students how to yell in the library at her teacher was one of my favorite and funniest memories of teaching. My student had researched Emmeline Pankhurst for her National History Day project and was preparing a performance for the district competition. We held sessions in the library twice a week, so this became her rehearsal space. One adjective she used to describe Emmeline Pankhurst was “militant”—well, if you are going to be militant about something, you need to be vocal and passionate in what you say and how you act. I told her she had to yell as if she was at a rally at Hyde Park and needed to convince others of her convictions. So for the next half hour, we both screamed rally cries at the top of our lungs in the library. At the district competition, she made the judges jump out of their seats due to her sheer volume.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I likenGlory, directed by Edward Zwick. The soundtrack makes it seem like it’s real ghosts singing through the orchestral arrangement, demanding that their stories be told. It was about so much more than war, and highlights parts of history that others have made small.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Because I teach drama to elementary school students, I try to align my lessons with what they are learning in their classrooms or topics that I think they would find fascinating. One lesson my students enjoy is on Shakespeare and Elizabethan England. Students pick cards when entering the classroom and depending on the number, they get assigned to be the royalty, the gentry, the yeoman, or the peasants. They get pretty into their roles. Royalty gets certain perks during the lesson, like eating popcorn in class and sitting on thrones, but come to realize that they are only able to stay in power with the support of the other three groups.

Another favorite lesson is on the Stamp Act and other events that led to the Revolutionary War. Students get to have candy (“Yay!”), but are “taxed” heavily and have it steadily taken away (“Not fair!”). Through their increasing disappointment and watching their candy stashes dwindle, they develop empathy with the colonists and their plight. We use those experiences to make a more emotionally accurate tableau vivant to show and act out the events leading up to the Revolutionary War.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: CherylAnne Amendola, New Jersey

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 CherylAnne Amendola:



CherylAnne Amendola, Montclair Kimberley Academy
2017 New Jersey History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
Every year I ask my students to memorize the preamble of the Constitution by singing the School House Rock version. It is totally optional, but if they do it I bake them a cake, or cupcakes, or cookies, or a special request, like candy sushi. One student was absent the day his class performed, so when he returned he played his rendition of “We The People” on the trumpet before the class joined in with him, singing the words. It was awesome!

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
There is a tavern in town (now a dentist’s office) built around 1770. George Washington mentions John Dods tavern in several letters as a reference point for directions for Revolutionary soldiers.

What is the last great history book you read?
Most Blessed of the Patriarchs by Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
This is so hard! Do I have to pick just one? I love the Tower of London, The Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg (the living museum!) and Monticello, to name a few. I’ve also enjoyed visiting Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown.

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. I wasn’t sure, either, but it is such a rewarding profession. You can change lives, save lives, and open hearts. Every year you teach, but it is different depending on the students you have and where you allow them to take you.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be, and why?
Another hard question, GLI! Harriet Jacobs, because her narrative is so comprehensive, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking. I’d like to talk to her about it if she’d let me. I’d want to meet Thomas Jefferson, the “American Sphinx” himself. I want him to explain “all men are created equal” and his views on slavery. I need to know once and for all how he could write such a beautiful phrase but live such a cursed life, and he could hopefully explain that best. I’d also like to meet Henry Clay to pick up some pointers about how to get people to compromise.

Who is your favorite historian?
Peter Onuf, hands down, followed closely by Annette Gordon-Reed. I’ve been reading a lot of Maxine N. Laurie’s work about New Jersey, too, and she is also interesting.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
1776. I know, I know. It’s not really an historical film or series, but it sure is fun!

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The colonial period and American Revolution, followed closely by the early federal period. I also like to dabble in World War II. It would’ve been cool to have been a part of the greatest generation.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Honestly, they tend to enjoy what I enjoy.  As long as I bring excitement into the room, it usually catches on. Currently, though, they’re enjoying learning about America’s first political parties because we use the music from Hamilton to make it fun.

 


Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Rebecca Moll, Arkansas

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 Rebecca Moll:



Rebecca Moll, Haas Hall Academy
2017 Arkansas History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?I thought I had a brilliant idea to get my students to research and dig deeper into history by having a “Tea Time,” so that we could “gossip” about the Harding administration and all of the scandals. It turned out that the assignment coincided with the release of President Harding’s letters to his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips. Needless to say high school students found those more interesting than the Teapot Dome Scandal.
 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The oldest house still standing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is known as the Ridge House. Sarah Ridge moved to Fayetteville following her husband’s assassination in Indian Territory. Sarah’s husband was John Ridge, a leader in the Cherokee Nation that signed the Treaty of New Echota. When the Cherokee reached Indian Territory, members of the Ross faction set out to assassinate members of the Treaty Party. This left Sarah, her seven children, and their tutor to seek refuge in Fayetteville. As a result of their time in Fayetteville, the children’s tutor, Sophia Sawyer, established the Fayetteville Female Seminary. Sarah’s son John Rollin Ridge went on to become the first editor of the Sacramento Bee and is considered the first Native American novelist, for his book The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit. Sarah and John Ridge are also my great-great-great-great grandparents! 

What is the last great history book you read?
Recently, my students and I decided to start a rowing program at our high school, and when we met with the local rowing club, we were advised to read The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James BrownIt is a wonderful story about the University of Washington rowing team’s unlikely rise to represent the United States at the Berlin Games. American Experience has an episode called Boys of ’36.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has made a big impact on teaching US history in our region. The museum is set up as a timeline of US history from the colonial period to now. Many of the famous painting featured in textbooks now reside in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is a wonderful way to walk through history. My students can see Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington, and Theodore Robinson’s World’s Columbian Exposition, as well as work by modern artists like Andy Warhol.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Chief Justice John Marshall, by far one of the most underrated political figures. The idea of judicial review is one of the greatest American constructs. I would want to thank him for his early rulings to allow the judicial branch to be an independent institution for the people of the United States.

Who is your favorite historian?
Dee Brown, Arkansan and author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
PBS American Experience!

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
US foreign policy is my all-time favorite topic! Every president has had their own idea on the US involvement abroad, but there is a more complex element when you add Congress and public opinion. Whether it was the Barbary Coast, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Kosovo, each president had a methodology in their decision making. I was fortunate enough to attend the GLI Teacher Seminar at the University of Texas on United States Foreign Policy since 1898, with Professor Jeremi Suri.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students really enjoy reenacting the disputes that led up to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The students are paired with the various countries that were negotiating the closure of World War I. They really love the idea of creating an alternate ending that would result in greater strife or peace depending on the actors. Every year, the discussions are heated, and they never end the same. I like activities where you can engage the students in the idea of conflict resolution—that historical events are more complex than what is written on a page.  

 



Congratulations to Sara Ziemnik, the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year!

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik of Rocky River, Ohio, has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year. Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony in New York on November 8, where Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.

Ziemnik has taught American history and world history for seventeen years at Rocky River High School, where she encourages her students to learn from one another, centering her classroom around debate, discussion, and inquisitive learning.

Rocky River High School principal Robert Winton praises Ziemnik as “a master at her craft,” and notes that in her classroom, “students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing and other creative ways to relay historical events to high school kids. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations all while keeping a smile on her students faces.”

Learn more about Sara Ziemnik in our press release and in her “Get to Know the History Teachers of the Year” Q&A!



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Katherine Harrell, Kansas & Lance VanderWorst, South Dakota

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 Katherine Harrell and Lance VanderWorst:



Katherine Harrell, Tonganoxie Middle School
2017 Kansas History Teacher of the Year 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I live in Tonganoxie, Kansas, which is named after a Delaware Indian chief, whose name in the Delaware language translates to “shorty..

What is the last great history book you read?
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Know that you will not get rich in this profession, but you will do very meaningful, positive, and enjoyable work.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I would like to travel back and meet Thomas Jefferson. I’m fascinated by his intelligence, talents, and complexity. I would love to ask him various questions about his views on slavery and government.

Who is your favorite historian?
David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The original Roots series.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Civil War.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Like their teacher, the Civil War.



Lance VanderWorst, Herreid Independent School District
2017 South Dakota History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
Watching the interaction between my students and our area veterans surrounding our school Veteran’s Day activities.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
The town of Herreid is named after South Dakota governor Charles N. Herreid. He became governor the same year that the town was founded (1901).

What is the last great history book you read?
Revolutionary Characters by Gordon S. Wood.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I love the historic sites in and around Boston.

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 need to have a passion for helping kids, working with the public and your subject content area.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
George Washington. His leadership in leading a ragtag army to defeat the greatest military power on Earth was nothing short of miraculous.

Who is your favorite historian?
Gordon S. Wood.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
Sons of Liberty.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The Revolutionary War era.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Revolutionary War, Civil War, Indian Wars, World War II, and Vietnam.