One teacher’s journey through U.S. history
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Tue., Aug. 23, 2011
Brian Germain hated learning about history in high school. But when he took a history class his freshman year at Sacred Heart University from Dr. Paul Siff, he fell in love with it. Siff made history come alive for Germain. He decided to double-major in psychology and history. Germain ran for and was elected as president of his senior class. It opened his eyes to the differences in principle and practice, he said. Five years later, he graduated with a Master of Arts in teaching and landed a position at Putnam High School.
This summer, he attended the Presidential Academy for American History and Civics. Coordinated by the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Academy brought together 60 teachers from across the country for an intensive 21-day program. Participants studied the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, the Gettysburg Address in Gettysburg, and the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
Using these three documents to concentrate on the issues facing America in 1776, 1863 and 1963, and by immersing the teachers in the geographical area where the issues were debated and fought, the Academy hoped to better prepare teachers to lead their own students.
In Philadelphia, Germain listened as historian David Hackett Fischer spoke about Washington's crossing in the war for independence. At Gettysburg, he stood where the 20th Connecticut Infantry fought Pickett's charge in the battle that proved a turning point in the Civil War. In Washington, he saw the original Voting Rights Act that President Johnson signed into law. It was an amazing experience for the self-described “history nerd.”
Germain is excited to put his experience to work with his history classes this year at Putnam High. “I care that kids are critical, that they analyze information, that they know fact from fiction, and that they know how to write and speak,” he said.
The experience helped broaden Germain’s understanding of pivotal events in U.S. history. “I know so much more,” he said. “I can bring this journey back to the kids.”
When the energetic young teacher said, “I'm going to rock these kids,” it was easy to believe him.