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.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Elise Cuevas, Mississippi

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 Elise Cuevas:



Elise Cuevas, Our Lady Academy
2017 Mississippi History Teacher of the Year 

What is the last great history book you read?
Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza, the story of the Rwandan genocide. While the genocide was not that long ago, nonetheless, it is historical. l read her story of determination, courage, and strength in one sitting.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
My favorite historical site is the FDR memorial in Washington DC, but a place I love to visit is the Supreme Court. I am enamored with the work of the Supreme Court and wish I could be there for every decision day and every session of oral arguments.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Queen Elizabeth I or Anne Boleyn, because that time period has always intrigued me. They were both strong women who influenced government and politics. They had a voice in world dominated by men.

Who is your favorite historian?
Elie Wiesel is my favorite historian because I am inspired by his ability to turn an absolutely horrific event into an opportunity to inform people. To me, he is our greatest source of information about the Holocaust. He has spent his life re-living his near death experience, in hopes that it is never forgotten or ignored. Most people would have done everything to forget and move on.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I have many favorite topics. Some include the time of the founding fathers and the writing of the Constitution, the influence of the Supreme Court and its monumental decisions, and the Cold War.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students tend to be very interested in WWII and the Holocaust. That interest inspired a field trip to Europe with WWII and the Holocaust as the focus. We were able to visit key places integral to the war (the Berlin Wall, the diary of Anne Frank, and Auschwitz to name a few). Five students accompanied me on this trip. My students are also interested in things that affect them today, such as the Electoral College, Supreme Court decisions that impact the interpretation of the Bill of Rights, and elections. However, they generally perk up when I share stories of historical figures that you do not read in a normal history texts such as that Ruth Bader Ginsberg graduated top of her class but could not get a job because she was a woman or the fact that Lyndon B. Johnson held meetings with people while he was on the toilet. I spend a whole day sharing stories of pork-barrel projects in Congress. The students love those kinds of facts.



Elbridge Gerry and the Original Gerrymander

“The Gerrymander: A New Species of Monster,” Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812. (Library of Congress)

Elbridge Gerry—signer of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Constitutional Convention (follow the links to documents by and about Gerry in the Gilder Lehrman Collection), congressman, diplomat, governor, and vice president—had a distinguished political career, but his legacy largely rests on one word: gerrymander. 

Gerrymander refers to the act of manipulating the borders of a voting district to favor one party. This often results in serpentine, labyrinthine districts. The practice of gerrymandering has persisted with no clear rules on what constitutes acceptable versus illegal and overly partisan redistricting. This may change in October, when the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford on the constitutionality of a redrawn district in Wisconsin. But where does the term—and the practice—originate?

In 1812, Massachusetts Democratic-Republicans drew up a plan for new voting districts to retain control of the state senate in upcoming elections. Governor Gerry, a Democratic-Republican, found the plan “disagreeable” but reluctantly signed it. The plan was mocked by the Boston Gazette, which depicted an affected district in Gerry’s home county of Essex as a salamander, calling it “The Gerry-mander.” The plan, though criticized, worked as intended. In the 1812 election, the Democratic-Republicans retained control of the state senate with 29 seats to the Federalists’ 11, although the party lost control of the state house of representatives, and Gerry lost his reelection bid.

Perhaps ironically, Gerry spent most of his political career as a moderate nonpartisan, viewing the growing political divide between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans with distaste and preferring to follow his own principles rather than those of either party. He refused to sign the US Constitution in 1787 on the grounds that it had no bill of rights, and then joined with anti-Federalists to pass the Bill of Rights in Congress. However, he went on to support the economic policies of Federalist Alexander Hamilton and served as a diplomat to France under Federalist president John Adams. It was only after Federalists blamed the  XYZ Affair on Gerry’s actions as a diplomat that he formally joined the Democratic-Republicans.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Aaron Weiss, Illinois

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 Aaron Weiss:



Aaron Weiss, Walter Payton College Prep
2017 Illinois History Teacher of the Year 

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
I made the mistake of telling a class of 10th graders that I hate/am-afraid-of marshmallow Peeps.  They spent the next two years hiding them around my classroom to see if I’d notice. Before they graduated, they hung and hid about two hundred drawings of Peeps around the room before I got to school. They’re juniors in college now and I’m still finding them. It makes me smile when I open a book and a hand-drawn Peep falls out.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I like anything in history when I can discover how topics, people, or themes intersect or connect. One of the things I love about studying and teaching history is that every time I think I really understand a topic, I realize it’s even bigger and more complex than I knew.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
I’m always a little surprised at the overwhelming enthusiasm during our post-WWII/Cold War unit. I think it’s because it can be delightfully weird (duck-and-cover, HUAC drama, espionage, growth of suburbs) but it’s also a time when they can see our modern America coming into focus (America in the world, new and enduring methods of racial discrimination, new gender roles and definitions, as well as new strategies for confronting inequities and moving America closer to its ideals). They (and I) also like discovering how so many different themes and stories from the era (WWII demobilization, housing, anti-communism at home, family life, civil rights, politics, and student movements) were linked and influenced one another.

What is the last great history book you read?
The book that has stayed with me most in the past year is Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. Although it’s a novel, it captures entire eras of American history through recollections and stories of ordinary people. While it isn’t strictly a history book, it has greatly helped me frame and ponder American history with its themes of fathers and sons, anger and forgiveness, misunderstanding and figuring-it-out, inclusion and exclusion, and change and continuity, and how we perceive, judge, and forgive each other and ourselves. And best of all, it is set in Iowa, so it feels very familiar and reminds me of where I grew up. I have a Marilynne Robinson quotation hanging in my classroom: “I think the basis of democracy is a willingness to assume well about other people. You have to assume that basically people want to do the right thing.”

Who is your favorite historian?
Robert Johnston was my advisor in grad school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He’s been an incredibly inspiring mentor as someone who infuses his historical work with modern connections and a belief that history must serve a modern purpose and can help us build a strong, inclusive democracy. Additionally, he cares deeply about teaching and sets an example of patient steering in the classroom. Working with Robert helped me crystallize many of my own beliefs and goals about the craft of teaching history.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
There’s no such thing as a born teacher. Building a successful career in this job (like most rewarding jobs) takes intentional practice, self-reflection, and an expectation of continual growth. I’ve been teaching fifteen years, and there are a lot of things I feel like I’m just starting to figure out, and other things I haven’t even scratched the surface of. I say all of this as encouragement to new and prospective teachers, because it is okay to not have it all figured out right away (or after a decade-plus). But if this is something you care about, dive in and go for it. I can’t imagine a more interesting or rewarding life.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Rhonda Watton, Wisconsin

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 Rhonda Watton:



Rhonda Watton, Templeton Middle School
2017 Wisconsin History Teacher of the Year 

What is the last great history book you read?
The last OUTSTANDING history book I read and highly recommend is Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America by Stephen Knott and Tony Williams.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
Colonial Williamsburg is my favorite historical site. There is nothing better than literally stepping back into history and being immersed in the day-to-day activities of the eighteenth century. Even after being there several times, I always walk away with a deeper understanding of the time period and new perspectives on the colonists and early Americans. Colonial Williamsburg has an outstanding teacher summer institute for elementary, middle, and high school teachers.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Although there are MANY historical figures I would love to meet, I am always intrigued with Ben Franklin. I think his combination of wit and wisdom would make for some interesting conversation, plus I’m sure he’d have me laughing for hours.

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
I always enjoy bringing history to life. After meeting an Abraham Lincoln impersonator at our state social studies conference one year, it is exciting to be able to bring him to my school every year during our Civil War unit!

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Reedsburg, Wisconsin—otherwise known as the “Butter Capital of America.” Each year there is the annual Butter Festival and “Run for the Butter” race. Another other fun fact about Reedsburg is that the 90th meridian passes directly through the city.

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 a very challenging, yet exciting career. There is nothing I would rather do than share my love for history and for learning with my students. Every day is a new day and it is what you make it—after all, you create the lessons plans! It’s a rewarding feeling to watch your students develop into young civic-minded adults who will make a positive change in our world.

Who is your favorite historian?
No one can have just one favorite historian. Having taking classes from or attended summer institutes with Gordon Wood, Joe Ellis, and Stephen Knott, I put them all on top of my list!

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film is the PBS mini-series about John Adams. Having participated in the Gilder Lehrman teacher seminar about John Adams with Joe Ellis made it even the more interesting and invoked some great conversation of the time period. I use several clips from the series in my classes . . . minus the tarring-and-feathering scene.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I always find whatever I am teaching at the moment to be my favorite historical era; however, I tend to gravitate toward the Revolutionary period and early Republic as my favorites.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students tend to gravitate most toward the major wars we study, particularly the Revolutionary War and Civil War.  



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.