Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Paul Howard, Washington DC

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 Paul Howard:

Paul Howard, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
2017 District of Columbia History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The National Archives. This may be DC bias, but the Archives is the American history gold mine. Apart from the founding documents, the Archives have the most fascinating documents and exhibits that highlight our macro history and, more importantly, our micro histories.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Most people who have entered the field of education do so because they want to help children achieve an elevated quality of life. Often times when you say that you are a teacher, people will replay with “Oh, I bet that is a rewarding job.” As they should, because it is a rewarding career. However, what you are never told during teacher training is that your failures will linger much longer than your successes. If you plan, teach, and seek professional development with the full effort and passion required by the profession, then you will have phenomenal triumphs and change the course of people’s lives. This is the ultimate professional satisfaction and these are the stories teachers tell themselves and each other. The stories that do not get told are the ones that potential teachers should know about.

It is impossible for a teacher to satisfy all the needs of all their students. No one person can pass on enough wisdom, knowledge, and love to children to prevent all of them from suffering. While most people understand this conceptually at a societal level, teachers experience this first hand. At some point you will fail as a teacher, and that failure will impact a child. Your failures will have names and faces attached to them. A teacher is not the sole reason for a student’s success, nor is a teacher the sole reason for their failure; however, young teachers should know that they will experience both and they both shape you as an educator.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Toussaint Louverture because he was a historical crossroads in human form. The man was a slave, a slave owner, a businessman, a general, a politician, and a writer. His perspective was unique in a world of revolutions and I would love to hear what he thought.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The Big Short. It is not quite a “historical” film yet, but it will be, and it does an excellent job of documenting a prevalent mentality in America at the turn of the millennia.

Check out photos of Paul Howard with his students below:


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