My mother would get excited about history — especially Louisiana History — and her excitement was contagious. She often said that she was glad to be from Louisiana because its history was so fascinating.
She was also an excellent teacher. Many of her students considered her their favorite even if she was a stern educator who demanded quality work. She taught history to Baton Rouge-area eighth graders for over 15 years and she wanted her students to not only know the stories of history, but to understand each story’s significance to their lives today.
She’s the only teacher I knew of who would dress up as an historical character for the entire class, assume the nature of that character, and only answer to that character’s name for the whole day. It was not uncommon for her to stand on a chair or her desk to teach — if it fit her character. The kids loved it! And they learned to love history as well.
Growing up with a mom like this instilled firm values and principles in our lives. Every holiday we flew our flag. We knew how to display it properly, fold it properly, and care for it properly. We learned to respect the office of President of the United States even if we didn’t agree with his political persuasion. We honored veterans and soldiers, as well as those who died fighting for our freedoms. We went to 4th of July celebrations. We watched patriotic shows and movies like Yankee Doodle Dandy (I highly suggest you watch this one for a patriotic shot in the arm!) We went on a family trip to Washington, D.C. where we toured the Capitol, met our congressman, saw everything one would expect to see, plus Mount Vernon and nearby battlefields. I still have fond memories of that vacation. I have also attempted to instill these same values in my own children by doing these same things.
After my mom retired from teaching, she didn’t stop sharing her passion. Field trips with grandchildren and school groups to historic sites and museums in the region were common. She also created a walking history tour for downtown New Orleans and Baton Rouge that I still use today when taking visitors to these cities.
I love history and I know that it is in large part because of the thrill she always found in it. I really don’t understand how people can find history boring. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have my mom for a teacher.
About history she would say, “I love it, just love it!”
She passed away in January of 2010 and is sorely missed, but what an example she left for us to follow!