My teaching covers American history, African American studies, world history, and the history of religions. Since 2001 I have taught at several institutions at both the high school and collegiate levels. Currently, I am Professor of History at the College of Biblical Studies, a predominately African American school located in Houston's culturally-rich Mahatma Gandhi District.
When I taught in high school, I offered on-level courses in world history, western civilization, U. S. history, and Advanced Placement European History. In addition, I taught elective history courses on food in world history, religion and the civil rights movement, September 11 in historical memory, speech communications, and American politics. For high school students I organized a campus-wide study program focused on the history of South Sudan, which included the common reading of Francis Bok's Escape from Slaveryand hosting Bok for a campus lecture. In conjunction with this work, I also co-taught an educator's workshop with the University of Houston's Kairn Klieman called "Imperative to Act: Africa in the Classroom" at Houston's Holocaust Museum. I participated in a Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History Summer Teacher Seminar titled “Religious Movements in American History,” held at the Huntington Library and led by historian and writer Daniel Walker Howe.
At the collegiate level, I have offered entry-level courses on American history, world history, and western civilization. Upper-level offerings have included courses on early 20th century American history, American religious history, religion in world history, and African American history. I have also spoken at educational forums on topics related to Latino/a history, American history, and African American history. Recently, at Sam Houston State University I designed and organized a program, "#SayHerName: The Sandra Bland Movement."
My teaching has been recognized with three awards. When I was a high school teacher I was a State Finalist for the Preserve America/Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year Award (2008) and I received a Joseph B. Whitehead Educator of Distinction Award (2008). At the collegiate level, in the fall of 2009 I received a Faculty Freedom Fighter Award from Sam Houston State University's college chapter of the NAACP (Unit 6816).
Here's the Swahili proverb mentioned above: “Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.” This proverb from the Swahili peoples of East Africa encapsulates the reality that teaching and learning take hard work. Moreover, the proverb suggests the concept of interdependence, a vital dynamic for any learning environment. Just like a productive garden requires time, patience, careful attention, and the need to cycle in new crops, teaching and learning demand focus, sustained effort, and ingenuity, as well as the ability to adapt to changing conditions, perhaps even new environments.
In addition to how the Swahili proverb challenges me to consider intellectual transactions between leaders and learners in an interdependent classroom, the volume in which I discovered the proverb, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, also speaks to how I approach teaching. Trained in history, I seek to extend the table, as it were, to include diverse disciplinary perspectives, and unique analytical angles to the particular subject under study or discussion. To push the metaphor further, as an educator and scholar I attend to the ways in which I can both equip and assist students with intellectual utensils so that they can take ownership of their own learning, and ideally extend the table to those with whom they come into contact.
I also believe that a classroom does not exist in a vacuum. It is literally and figuratively part of a larger university community. With this in mind, I endeavor to link my classroom and therefore my students to the larger world of which we are a part. Ideally, innovative liberal arts and humanistic-based teaching demands careful consideration of how different disciplines employ an array of methodologies to make sense of both past and present. In these ways, my research and teaching naturally feed into one another. Creating intellectual community in a university setting is not a simple proposition. It is inherently risky; but it is in moments of intellectual wrestling and critical query that learning takes place. It comes in different ways: through assembling a thoughtful array of readings and assignments; by the presence of guest speakers and lecturers; perhaps the creative use of digital technology; the use of music and/or art; or an onsite field trip to a specific site of historical importance.
Over my nearly 20 years of secondary and collegiate teaching, an intentional focus on creating community, making connection, and fostering collaboration summarize the thoughts I have had and the approaches I have developed to create, maintain, and sustain a vibrant, interdependent, historically oriented classroom. Just as my research is cross-disciplinary, and at times collaborative in nature, I adopt the same posture and seek to create the same intellectual atmosphere in the classroom.