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Education is, as the cliche goes, a journey– but unpacking the adage reveals something important. Travel is to investigate and explore, to meet new people and walk their ways, to become someone different by sunset than who you were at sunrise– it’s growth through empathy.

It’s a value that all travelers intuit, and that great teachers– teachers like world traveler and Dixon Middle School’s History Teacher, Allie Stewart– keep in mind, daily. 

I interviewed Stewart in September, asking her “why for teaching,” as well as how she approaches teaching, the challenges she faces as a teacher in 2023, and her hope for incoming and departing students (which, as you might expect, is related to empathy.)

Read her interview below.

Q: So, what is your reason for teaching? Did you have a teacher that got you interested in History?

A: Honestly, my desire to teach comes from traveling– I love traveling. I love learning about other people and other cultures.

My parents took me all over the US, and we traveled to Europe when we got older.

And I love my summers. Teachers enjoy summer! Who else can spend a month in Japan like I did, or a month in Paris? 

Q: What is your approach to teaching history? 

A: I value using their background knowledge to pull students in. 

Just yesterday, we started the lesson by discussing three regions in Utah, and my students needed help with the concept. I told them, “Guys– it’s just like Minecraft,” and when we dug into the Minecraft analogy, students got it– the lightbulb went off. 

Using their background knowledge gets that buy-in from the beginning.

Q: What is the challenge in teaching students nowadays?

A: I don’t get into it, but politics and the world and people’s beliefs. Navigating that is tricky. 

That and learning disparities– you get kids that don’t know how to read– you get kids starting in different places.

Like I’m teaching a class in Spanish. Some students have only been here for a month– and they’re with me in US history! That is tricky.

Q: How do you start your year? What unit do middle school teachers begin with?

A: So it’s a standards-based unit, and we start with the First Americans. I try to get authentic objects into the hands of students. They’re feeling pottery; they prick their fingers on genuine arrowheads; they use molcajete to grind corn. We’re trying stuff like that as often as possible.

Q: What do you hope that students take away from your class?

A: First, that they learn history. “Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat themselves” is a renowned quote for a reason.

I want them to remember the content, sure, but more importantly, I want them to learn empathy.

If you can learn from other people’s perspectives and be a nice human being– that’s what I hope they can take away.

Q: Last fun question: Do you have any accurate or well-written historical dramas you’re watching or recommend?

A: I’m watching a K-Drama right now that is pretty good. It’s called “Mr. Sunshine,” and it’s all about turn-of-the-20th-century Korea when Japan took over. 

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei