Paul LaRue is a high school Social Studies teacher in his 23rd year at Washington High School, Washington Court House, OH. He has led a long and eventful career as a teacher, making certain that his students have a variety of hands-on, real-life experience. His students’ projects make the people of the past more real, allowing students to reach back through time and learn more about people instead of numbers and labels.
In 1998, Paul developed a Research History class giving high school seniors hands-on experience with primary source materials. The class has researched the Underground Railroad, an African-American G.A.R. post, and United States Colored Troops in Ohio. The class, which has received state and national recognition, was featured in a video co-produced by the Close-Up Foundation and the African-American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A front-page article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper in 2000 featured the class and their archeological work at an Underground Railroad site. The students also researched, developed and continue to maintain an interactive web sites which provide information on African-American Civil War topics: www.usctohio.com.
Paul’s focus is very hands-on, looking for long-lasting memories which won’t fade as soon as the student graduates. He says that preservation is “always more powerful than just talking or reading. Preservation gives students the opportunity to experience true service learning while contributing through historic preservation. Ask a student ten years from now about the Peninsula Campaign, maybe they will remember, maybe they won't. Ask a student ten years from now to describe what it was like to research and install a veteran’s headstone on their unmarked grave, their memories are fresh, crisp, and full of pride.”
Paul was named the 2003 American Legion Ohio Educator of the Year and has presented at the Ohio and National Social Studies conferences. He also participated in a panel aired on C-SPAN to discuss African-American Civil War Soldiers. In 2004, the African-American Civil War Memorial awarded Paul “Teacher of the Year.”
Paul was named the Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution American History Teacher of the Year for 2005. Also in 2005, the class was selected by The History Channel as one of 17 National Finalists in the “Save Our History” awards competition. In 2006 and 2007, Paul was selected as one of 24 National Finalists for The History Channel’s “Save Our History” teacher honors awards.
What advice does Paul have for his fellow teachers? “Don't let all the demands on your time as a teacher rob you of the reason you became a teacher,” he says. “The joy of sharing your love of history. We all have to deal with state mandated testing, emphasis on state standards, etc. That doesn't mean you can't be creative and inspiring.”
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