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Teaching Inspiration The Right Instructor Makes Learning More Than Fun

Wed., May 10, 1995

When I was a sophomore in high school, I enrolled in a World History course taught by John Hagney. On the first day of class he handed out the syllabus, and the first sentence read, “The priority of this course is for you to cultivate a love for history.”

I remember wondering if he actually meant that, but as time went by, it became exceedingly clear that he did.

During the year we traveled from the myths of the ancient Egyptians to the minds of the classical Greeks. We saw the battles of the Visigoths and felt the energy of the people in the streets during the French Revolution.

Mr. Hagney inspired me to read “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, St. Augustine’s “City of God” and parts of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Later, when we studied contemporary Latin America, I read Carlos Fuentes’ book, “The Buried Mirror.”

All of these books have influenced me greatly, mainly in challenging me to look to the society around me and to see the problems that exist, and in giving me historical examples about what was done in the past about these problems and what possible solutions I can strive for in the future.

One of the most meaningful aspects of doing these out-of-class readings was that Mr. Hagney was willing to take time out of class to discuss with me what I had read and to give me feedback on the papers I wrote regarding these books.

Mr. Hagney was not only an inspiring teacher then, but he has continued to be a mentor to me, someone I respect. Now, in hindsight, after attending Spokane Falls Community College for two years as a Running Start student, I see that his class prepared me for college more than any other class.

He expected his students to participate, along with encouraging each one individually to find a topic they found interesting and to pursue that in reference to whatever we were studying. We could write papers, present an oral presentation or do projects.

Mr. Hagney enjoys history. He has the ability, as any good teacher should, to look at a topic from several different viewpoints. We would look at a battle, for instance, and he would help us see it from a soldier’s point of view, then from a villager’s viewpoint, then from our own viewpoints as if we were really there surveying the scene.

We also would discuss topics from a social point of view, then look at the economic realities of the situation, and also the religious, intellectual and political aspects of everyday occurrences.

Mr. Hagney not only teaches his students to love history, but he teaches them to love learning. I want to thank him for being my teacher, because he truly is a teacher to remember.

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