By Amy Miller
Upper School history teacher and recipient of the 2011 Randy St. John Teaching Award
Last summer, I chose to pursue one of my passions. While I enjoyed time at the beach and pool, learning is my true guilty pleasure. Currently in my 14th year of teaching, I certainly have moments where I long to be on the other side of the desk. Receiving one of Harrisburg Academy’s Trustee Fellowships allowed me to do just that.
For six beautiful days, I was a student again, only this time at Gettysburg College. I participated in the Eisenhower Academy, a week-long examination of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life and career. The course consisted of academic lectures from top scholars in the field and visits to the Eisenhower National Historic Site. It was indeed the perfect combination of intellectual discourse and fun field trips. More importantly, I learned new information on key topics such as 1950s culture, civil rights, McCarthyism, the Korean War, and the Cold War.
On the first day of the course, Dr. Michael Birkner of Gettysburg College began his lecture: “History is an unending argument.” How true. As a history teacher, I have the tremendous responsibility of doing my homework, so to speak. As modeled at the Eisenhower Academy, I strive to provide my students with current scholarship from a variety of sources.
Students, too, should be encouraged to challenge their sources. For instance, in my US History course, we began the year with a novel study on “Choke Creek” by Lauren Small. We examined why the “great battle” at Sand Creek (1864) is now viewed as a massacre and discussed the issue of source reliability. In World History II, my students currently are designing and writing the historical investigation in IB format. Not only do they devise their own historical inquiry, but they must select scholarly sources and assess the value and limitations of such sources. Finally, in IB History (HL) II, we have just finished a unit on President Eisenhower’s role in the Cold War. Students must collaborate in producing a report of Eisenhower’s performance that includes assessment of the following traits: vision/agenda-setting; domestic leadership; foreign policy leadership; moral authority; and positive historical significance of his legacy.
In the spirit of teaching students HOW to think and not WHAT to think, I believe these classroom experiences will help my students develop a stronger appreciation for history and learning.