What Inspires a History Teacher?

Mr. Honer. Photo Source: Cristian Gomez

Mr. Honer. Photo Source: Cristian Gomez

Cristian Gomez

“-It’s my dream job, 22 years I still love it” said Mr. Siegfried, Pentucket history teacher. His experience is reflected by a lot of Pentucket’s history teachers, but where did they gain this passion for history?

Mr. Honer

The first history teacher I interviewed was Mr. Honer, who has been working at Pentucket for 21 years. Mr. Honer said he loved history in High School, but it was his history teacher Dana Smith who really inspired him to teach history to others. A trip to France to see the thousands of years of history there made him want to share the amazing experience with others. On why he decided to stay at Pentucket: Mr. Honer said he “always liked the students, always patient, wonderful to coach and teach” and “always had good relations with parents.” He also found that “At every turn people have been super supportive of the students” along with having “Great coworkers.” On teaching: Mr. Honer thought that when it came to engaging students with history the best way would be to “try to bring those [historical] decisions into current times,” like comparing historical decisions and events like WW2 to modern events like the Russian-Ukraine War. Mr. Honer thought bringing kids on field trips to museums could be beneficial depending on curriculum, but that “It’s tough to bring whole classrooms.” Mr. Honer believes in relating modern day events to the ones of the past, and giving students something to relate to in their own lives is beneficial to helping students grasp the reality of history and explaining the actions people took. 


Mr. Siegfried

Photo Source: Mr. Siegfried

I then interviewed Mr. Siegfried, who has been working at Pentucket since 2000. He loved history in school and was inspired to become a history teacher because of his father and his 10th grade history teacher Sally Dye. He “had a great experience working with kids in the department of youth services-,” and being a teacher aligned well with being a father, so he could spend more time with his kids. He joined Pentucket and has been working  at his dream job for 22 years. Mr. Siegfried believes in an affable approach to teaching kids the importance of history, saying “The best way to engage students is to treat them like real human beings” and “secondly [getting students] to discover stories.” On things like field trips to museums, Mr. Siegfried said that they would be beneficial to his history curriculum but that they were not for everyone. Mr. Siegfried could not stress enough the importance of history and says “history is the one subject that will save you most often,” “[people] are the biggest threat to life and civilization” and that “a deep knowledge of history can protect civilization from destruction.” 


Mr. Parent

Photo Source: Cristian Gomez

Mr. Parent was another history teacher who I interviewed, and he has been working at Pentucket for 25 years. In his youth, Mr. Parent actually did not like history, but that changed in college when he read the book,“Born on the 4th of July” by Ron Kovic. He “-began to realize that history is about people and stories,” and out of that, his appreciation and drive to learn about the people who helped shape our nation was born. In college, Mr. Parent was going for his psychology degree, but he did a 5th year to get his Masters Degree in education and was issued a teaching license in social studies/history. His future was truly set out for him, and when he was only 18,  Parent said “I knew I wanted to be a teacher the first day I substitute taught a 5th grade class at the Reilly School in Lowell, Massachusetts.” He added:“I knew that day I enjoyed the atmosphere of the classroom and teaching was something I would eventually want to get involved with.” However, he still had another aspiration. He had always wanted to be a professional basketball player, but things didn’t pan out unfortunately. Ultimately, Mr. Parent says, “I am glad I got involved in teaching.”

Mr. Parent started working as a basketball coach at Pentucket High School, and the following year a teaching position opened up at the middle school for the 8th grade, where he has been working for 25 years now. “History can be a tough sell to young people,” says Mr. Parent, but he believes it’s important to get students to truly appreciate it and understand the events and people that have improved our lives today and given us almost limitless capabilities. He adds, “I try to have students appreciate the stories and people who have come before them and [that] have provided them with great opportunities to achieve their dreams.” Mr. Parent also believes in a more hands on approach to learning history. Traditional museums, he says, can be a little boring for kids. The 8th grade Washington, D.C. trip was a great example of a great hands on historical experience for students. It really engages students to be able to see the structure, the organizations, and the places where history happened because, as he explained, “Students who went on the trip learned a lot about their country and learned some valuable lessons about independence.” Avoidance of the mistakes of the past is an important part of why one should learn history, and although it can be difficult to get students to realize it, Mr. Parent thinks this is an important issue. He invokes the fall of the Roman empire to help students see how great nations fall, saying “One of the reasons the Romans fell is that the citizens no longer knew about or cared about the reasons that had made Rome great at one time.  I certainly think the USA can head in that same direction.” Overall, when it comes to teaching American history, Mr. Parent wants to make one concept clear, “The long term goal is to have students gain an appreciation for all the sacrifices that people have made that have given us the opportunities we enjoy in the United States.  Freedom is not free – and my hope is that people will not take all the benefits of living in the United States for granted.”


Ms. Costello

Photo Source: Ms. Costello

I was also able to briefly ask Pentucket librarian Ms. Costello about their experiences with being a history teacher. Ms. Costello used to be a history teacher before she became Pentucket’s librarian. She always liked history, but her love of it increased in college: “So in high school I liked history, but it wasn’t till I went to college that I caught the spark of history from my college professor [named Dr. Lister].” Ms. Costello had decided to go to college for history because, as she says, “I wanted to teach, I always knew I wanted to teach,” and “I like being able to have an intellectual conversation.” Ms. Costello was greatly in favor of field trips to museums, saying that she was “ABSOLUTELY!” in favor of field trips during the school year, “because it brings history alive in a way a textbook does not.” Ms. Costello has been Pentucket Highschool’s librarian for awhile now, but she still loves history and surely would not mind teaching history to others even if not as a full-time history teacher. 

Pentucket’s history teachers come from a variety of places and backgrounds, but one thing that all of them display is their passion for history and their devotion to telling the stories of the past to their students, and for that we could not be more grateful. So on behalf of Pentucket’s students, I would like to say thank you.