Introducing Joe Adragna, the 2018 Louisiana History Teacher of the Year

Joe Adragna 

Louisiana History Teacher of the Year 

Joe Adragna, St. Scholastica Academy, Covington, LouisianaSince 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?

I was going back and forth with a student, debating some point or another. The student, who was getting increasingly passionate about her argument, yelled out “BUT DAD!” 
Tell us one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in. 

I grew up in a town called East Moriches, on Long Island, New York. I remember going on a field trip around the corner from our elementary school with our FANTASTIC American history teacher Eugene Horton, and visiting a family cemetery that held the remains of Revolutionary War veterans. I thought that was amazing. Revolutionary War veterans! Buried in MY TOWN!

What was the last great history book you read?

Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War by James Wright.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?

I think my favorite historical site is the Montauk Lighthouse, on Montauk Point, New York. It’s the oldest lighthouse in New York State—it was authorized by the Second Congress in 1792 during the Washington administration. 

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

Honestly, I think I’d rather travel back in time and talk to some random person (or a couple of people) from a particular time and see what was really happening. That might be more interesting.

What is your favorite historical film or series?

I’d have to say the recent Vietnam War PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. 

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?

Some of the best experiences I’ve had as a teacher have been teaching the year 1968—the students just can’t believe how much happened in that one year.

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

I’d say make sure you really love the subject, and that you have a burning desire to talk about that subject all the time. Convey your passion to the students, and they will come along for the ride.

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