I was born while my parents lived on the Yankton Sioux reservation of south central South Dakota where my father served as a missionary. Small town public schools of South Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas provided my K-12 education after which I attended college at a church-related college in Tennessee as a history major. In order to teach at the college level, I enrolled at the University of Nebraska where I got an MA and a Ph. D. in American and modern European history.
My teaching career included Clemson University (three one-year appointments) and 35 years teaching history at community colleges in South and North Carolina. Both of these schools were “technical community colleges”—they began as job training institutions, graduating job-ready certificate and degree holders. My role was to offer college transferable history courses along with a few elective courses for the technical students. My wife and I relocated to North Carolina in 1990 after she secured a full-time college teaching position in sociology at a private women’s college; I obtained a history position at a nearby community college. We worked there until moving to Fort Collins. While teaching at these schools I served stints as a department head and also director of the College Transfer program.
Throughout my career I saw again and again that education is a single enterprise which works best when the different learning venues cooperate rather than stand apart. These collaborative experiences included programs where my community college provided instruction for career exploration in middle school; the Project for Historical Education at the University of North Carolina, which brought grad students together with middle school, high school and college faculty to discuss classroom approaches to selected historical issues; creation of a “college for high school seniors” program with the Greenville County (SC) School District; scoring AP European history essays in a setting where high school and college historians worked on an equal footing; and negotiation of agreements that guaranteed transfer between community colleges and 4-year public state colleges in South Carolina.
The value of meshing different instructional venues for the good of students was also underscored by my work as an elected member of the boards of the American Historical Association (1995-1998) and the Organization of American Historians (2006-2009). These organizations consciously involved all historians and included representatives from the many settings where history is presented to the public. I served as the council representative to the AHA Teaching Division, edited the “Teaching” column of the AHA newsletter, and led an effort to increase community college membership. For these efforts I received the association’s Troyer Steele Anderson prize for “outstanding contribution to the advancement of the Association.”
My record of collaboration in the study of history is paralleled in most other fields of K-12 study where teachers increasingly recognize that successful collaboration enriches the education of all students at all levels of education ending in the immediate post-graduation destinations of our students.