Introducing Tracy Jakubowski, the 2018 Nebraska History Teacher of the Year

Tracy Jakubowski

Nebraska History Teacher of the Year

Tracy Jakubowski, Grand Island Senior High School, Grand Island, NebraskaSince 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 moments from this past school year were when my students would take what we were learning and weave it into their twenty-first-century world. They would use whatever we were studying to create hilarious, historically accurate memes. 

Tell us one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in. 
My hometown is Grand Island, Nebraska. (While we may be grand, we are not actually an island.) On June 3, 1980, seven tornadoes touched down in our area, tragically claiming the lives of five people and injuring hundreds. The debris from the clean-up efforts was placed in an area of town and covered with dirt to make a large mound, known today as Tornado Hill. 

What was the last great history book you read?
50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
Mount Vernon is one place that I could visit again and again. 

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Any one of the founding fathers would be my choice. It would be so intriguing to listen to first-hand accounts of the fears and risks they took in the midst of forming our new country.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I’ve really enjoyed the two historical fiction–based series of 11/22/63 by Stephen King and The Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick. Something about exploring the alternate paths our history could have taken is intriguing to me.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Hands down, the Vietnam era and the political and social climate of the late 1950s through 1970s. From the foundations of the Civil Rights movement to hawks, doves, and the draft, my students gravitate towards the comparing and contrasting the past with today. 

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Trust your passion for teaching; it will carry you through the difficulties and frustrations that seem to be too much at times. The trends and politics of education are ever changing, but know you can close your classroom door, build relationships with your students, and simply teach.

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