Master’s in Teaching, The Evergreen State College
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be and why?
I would be a foreign correspondent, fearlessly dodging bullets in order to bring people the REAL story. Sleepless and scruffy but unbowed, I would traverse the globe seeking truth, justice and freedom for all. Or I’d be a stand-up comic. It depends.
What’s your earliest memory of “teaching”?
When I was four years old, my family had a large poster with the different letters of the alphabet on it. One of my favorite activities was to use a long pointer to indicate different sections and ask my family, “What letter is this?” No matter what they answered, I’d yell delightedly, “That’s WRONG!” and then laugh hysterically. I realize in retrospect this isn’t a very inspiring story.
What’s your favorite thing about the subject you teach?
History is loaded with wacky characters and unexpected events, like the two Union soldiers who went for a walk, glanced down and noticed General Robert E.Lee’s battle plans for Antietam wrapped around three cigars. It’s also full of human greatness and frailty, incredible foresight and bad decisions, plus personal choices that changed the course of entire nations (Henry VIII, anyone?). You can learn lessons that are still applicable today. For example, if you’re in a battle and the person in charge comes up with a “three-pronged plan”, RUN! They never work. Just ask “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne.
Do you have any memorable teaching moments when you realized your student(s) had “gotten” it?
A high school class was studying the Elizabethan period, and the students had to do presentations about different aspects of the society at that time. One group was responsible for presenting medicine and medical issues. A student in that group drew an elaborate comic strip depicting the arrival of the Black Plague on London shores, complete with rats, an explanation of how the disease was spread, and a frequent use of the word “pustules,” which he seemed to enjoy saying. When I see him or his classmates now, eleven years later, they still remember his presentation, perhaps because it was so disgusting. Also, he has since graduated from art school. I’d love to take credit for that, but can’t figure out how.
If you were a comic book character, what would your superpower be and would you have a superhero name?
Paradoxia, Queen of Time Travel. I would interview different people from history, come back to this time period and make millions of dollars writing new history books and making movies. I would also travel forward into future history and write biographies of people who haven’t been born yet. If I could bring a video camera, so much the better. Also, I could fly.