Introducing Aaron Dunning, the 2018 Nevada History Teacher of the Year

Aaron Dunning

Nevada History Teacher of the Year

Aaron Dunning, West Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, NevadaSince 2004, 749 exemplary American history teachers from elementary, middle, and high schools in all fifty states, Department of Defense schools, Washington DC, and US territories have been named State History Teacher of the Year. The National History Teacher of the Year is named in the fall. The 2018 State History Teachers of the Year were asked informal questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. 

Do you have a favorite/funny moment from teaching?

My favorite moment in teaching came directly after a detailed chapter on the Civil Rights Movement where we took a deep look at the tactics used by various groups. For the next period, we were covering current events and eventually it led to a question from a student about whether non-violent tactics could be successful in a current predicament. They had not only truly absorbed the content, but were then able to turn around and use the information to have an educated, respectful debate based on class content. 

Tell us one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in. 

Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, was a bit of a different experience than many people have in youth in a number of different ways. Anchorage played a part in WWII as the hub for movement of materials to combat the often ignored invasion of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska by the Japanese. I can vividly recall, during my childhood, running across a site that was littered with rusted soda cans, and every once in a while we’d even stumble across small exploded bombs from the era! 

What was the last great history book you read?

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and th Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, which covers the French Revolution from the perspective of a former slave whose white father brought him to France just as calls for abolition were heating up. General Alex Dumas is a name that should truly be taught alongside the more well-known leaders of the era. This has the added benefit of aligning with English teachers if they teach his son’s books, since so many of the stories derive from his father’s actual life.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?

The British Museum in London

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

The Marquis de Lafayette. Being able to pick his brain about his relationship with Washington and how much it suffered when Washington refused to free his slaves, as Lafayette was asking him to, would be as interesting as any concept in American history to me.

What is your favorite historical film or series?

Saving Private Ryan

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?

My students tend to really enjoy the Civil Rights Movement since it is something I am passionate about. I add figures like Malcolm X, Caesar Chavez, and the Chicano walkouts.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?

Your personality and voice are infinitely more important than anything else, so develop this before worrying about peripheral issues.

Click here to nominate a teacher for the 2019 state and national awards.