My favorite high school teacher was Mr. Erik Mallory, my sophomore AP European History teacher at Santa Fe High. I’ll never forget his class because of the impact he had on my development as a thinker and a writer. At the time I took his class, I had not experienced a class that was as engaging as it was rigorous. History had been presented to me as a simple exercise in memorization and regurgitation of unquestionable facts by previous educators in my progress through primary and secondary schooling.
Mr. Mallory changed the way I looked at history by introducing key sociological and philosophical concepts. He encouraged us to question all aspects of facts – why we considered it to be fact, and who was not included in the fact-making and decision-making. He asked us to consider what was the truth with a capital “T” and what the implications of believing in one universal truth has on a global society. Without his guidance and the language he helped me find in myself, I may have not developed my voice at such a young age.
One of my favorite lessons in his AP Euro course asked us to create small groups within our class. We were each assigned a fictional country, with its own unique characteristics and resources, and an individualized goal for our country we could not share with any foreign country. We had to elect a diplomat, a president, someone to represent the people of the country, and other social roles. During that exercise, which was used during our study of WWII, we all came to understand how delicate the balance of power is when avoiding war and how important it is to communicate internally with your group and externally with other groups. At the end of the lesson, war erupted between two countries and the simulation was complete. It was a lesson to show us that WWII was not some long forgotten, strange happening but rather the result of mistrust, miscommunication, and self-serving leaders.
I believe that the key to Mr. Mallory’s success is his passion for the subject matter and the delivery of his lessons. He made history come to life in a real, but not overwhelming, way for his students. He understood his classes were comprised of about 95% historically underrepresented students, most who were colonized because of the European history we would cover in his class. I believe his instruction intentionally pointed to the contradictions in history and asked us to fill in those gaps with our own questions. In his process, he also prepared us for the AP exam (which I passed with a 4 out of 5!) He was a transformative educator.