Introducing Martene Campbell, the 2018 Arkansas History Teacher of the Year

Martene Campbell 

Arkansas History Teacher of the Year 

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. 2018 State History Teachers of the Year were asked to answer informal interview questions by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. 

Do you have a favorite / funny moment from teaching?    
My favorite moments all center around seeing students develop a belief in themselves, whether that is realizing they can finally be successful at history or feeling accomplished after giving a congressional debate speech. 

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
For the last fifteen years, I have lived in Little Rock, Arkansas. While most everyone is aware of Little Rock Central High School and the Little Rock Nine who integrated the school in 1957, many of my own students are not aware of what happened in the following year after President Eisenhower forced Governor Faubus to integrate the school. The state legislature passed, and then Governor Faubus signed into law, legislation that closed all four public high schools in Little Rock in 1958–1959 rather than continue to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling. This legislation was upheld by voters and only affected the city of Little Rock. Additionally, it required the teachers and administrators to continue to report to school despite having no students.

What was the last great history book you read?
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Alexander exposes how another racial caste system emerged even after the Civil Rights Movement, arguing “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” 

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Its simplistic and sleek design serves as a powerful tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country in a tumultuous time. 

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I was born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, so from an early age that shared connection drew me to this president. I would love to travel back in time and connect with him. He led the country through one of its most trying times.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The John Adams miniseries on HBO.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
One era that always seems to remain of particular interest is the Progressive Era. 

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 ultimately about relationships and your ability and desire to cultivate relationships. You can learn the content and build your skills, but you must be passionate about people and investing in the lives of people.