clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

National History Day: The Best Thing I Do

Over the past four years, I have created, developed, and spread an annual History Day in my school, as part of the National History Day competition. All sophomores and juniors at Bronx Lab spend five weeks conducting in-depth historical research, which they then present to both our school and general community each February.

My school’s History Day is the accomplishment in which I take the most pride in my teaching career. It is the only event in the year that’s attended by the entire school and the only event at my school where parents and community members are invited to view the products of students’ learning. My former principal (Marc Sternberg, now a deputy chancellor) always told me that History Day was his favorite day of the school year.

Most significantly, it yields the greatest buy-in, interest, and growth in my students of anything I do. Students look forward to having the opportunity to learn about a topic in which they have interest and show off to the community. It has become a rite of passage. Over the past four years, I have had students complete research on a range of topics from the Missouri Compromise to the Spanish Civil War to Septima Clark, often yielding insights and understandings new even to me. It is the only time in our curriculum where students have the opportunity to complete in-depth, college-level research.

The students who go on to the city and even state levels of the competition have the opportunity to compete with and learn from the best students New York has to offer. It has been a transformative experience for my public school students, nearly all of whom are black or Latino, to see that their work is just as strong as that from the mostly white, private school students who enter our city’s competition.

I am very proud that in two of the past four years my students have won awards at the city level. But I am even more proud that four of my students have used their History Day papers as the writing samples that helped earn them full-tuition Posse Scholarships to elite private colleges. It meant the world to me, and their future to them, that they all felt that the best piece of writing they did in four years of high school was their work on the History Day project.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Sign up for the newsletter Chalkbeat New York

Sign up for our newsletter.