Introducing Christopher Raso, the 2018 Arizona History Teacher of the Year

Christopher Raso 

Arizona History Teacher of the Year Award Winner 

Since 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. Winners of the 2018 State History Teacher of the Year Award were asked to answer informal interview questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Do you have a favorite / funny moment from teaching? 

A favorite teaching moment occurred during our annual celebration of US Constitution Day. Learners had spent two weeks studying primary source documents, researching a famous founder, and developing costumes. One of my seventh grade students arrived dressed as Benjamin Franklin. Her performance for younger learners was so convincing, and laced with such humor, that it literally took me ten minutes to realize which one of my students it really was! The level of creativity was amazing, and she even allowed young students to teach her what a computer was used for. Our Ben Franklin asked them, “How does this machine work? How did you get those people inside that little window?” 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
My formative years were spent in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In the nearby city of Norfolk, I often visited St. Paul’s Church, which has a cannonball embedded in a brick wall. The ordnance was fired from a British warship in Norfolk Harbor during the War for Independence.

What was the last great history book you read?
Mark Fiege’s The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States 

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Ralph Waldo Emerson is my favorite American writer, and I would love to meet him and join his weekend circle of friends as they discuss life, nature, spirit, philosophy, and politics. Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Emerson were amazing talents from the American Renaissance and the founders of a unique cultural identity.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The Ken Burns nine-part documentary The Civil War

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
They range from the colonial period, to the Civil War, the Age of Invention, WWII, and the Space Race. 

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Teaching is the greatest job in the world! Educators have the privilege, and responsibility, to guide children in their exploration of the world and to provide the skills needed to succeed in life. As an American history teacher, I have the honor of speaking for those who are no longer here to speak for themselves. The professional educator is truly in the role of service to humanity. To roughly paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: Only one who has can give. Only one who knows can teach.