Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gehrz: Did Your History Teachers Make You Want to Be a Historian?

Chris Gehrz asks a great question at his blog, The Pietist Schoolman. It is certainly fitting for National Teacher Day.  Gehrz answers this question with an unqualified YES and cites some pretty good historians (Paul Kennedy, John Lewis Gaddis) in the process. But in the end, he focuses most of his attention on Maureen Conway, his 12th-grade U.S. History teacher.  Here is a taste:

I first met Maureen Conway not long after I turned eight years old. In the middle of a school year, I had just changed schools and grades (from 2nd grade in my local public school to 3rd grade in a new K-12 private school), and things were not going all that well. Among other challenges, I had to take a foreign language for the first time, and my classmates were months ahead of me in knowledge of French. But Mme. Conway not only worked with me outside of class to develop my vocabulary and grammar, but she recorded cassette tapes for me to use at home. (When I finished my PhD, she sent me one of the cassette tapes as a gift.)

But teaching French was just a sidelight: in 7th grade Mme. Conway, French savior, suddenly became Ms. Conway, American history super-teacher! I had her again in 12th grade U.S. history, but it was the earlier middle school encounter that fixed in my head the image of what a teaching historian should be like: passionate, and compassionate; tender-hearted towards those on the margins of society; committed to learning from the past to improve the present; fearlessly innovative in the classroom; and absolutely dedicated to seeing her students become the best versions of themselves. In her school profile, this is how she describes her philosophy in the classroom: "If I love it, they'll love it; of they love it, they'll learn it; if they learn it, they'll use it; if they use it, they can change the world."

Who were the teachers who inspired your love of history? Lets celebrate them by listing their names in the comments section below.

I will begin:  Alan Lucibello, Robert Wenger, John Woodbridge.