Reflecting on 40 years as a history teacher (short version)

My love of learning and reading comes from my parents, John and Leota Arendale. I was the first of anyone in the family tree to attend college. I had a simple dream of teaching history at a community college. I remember during my first semester at Emporia State University talking with my academic advisor. I expressed my dream and then the advisor told me to give it up since no history positions had been advertised for a community college history teacher in Kansas for more than a decade. Most often, part-time college instructors who were full-time high school history teachers were promoted for full-time college employment. I rejected the advice from that adviser and pursued my undergraduate and graduate degrees in history.

My first position was teaching history at Pratt Community College (KS) which was half the size of the large psychology course taught at the University of Minnesota (UMN). After seven years, I accepted a similar position at another tiny community college in Highland, KS. Next on my journey was the University of Missouri at Kansas City where I helped lead the National Center for Supplemental Instruction. While at UMKC, I helped conduct training workshops for other colleges how to implement SI at their campus to help students do better in difficult courses, I wondered what it would be like applying principles from the SI student study group program to teaching a history class.

One should be careful what they wish for. I was recruited for a history position with General College at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN). I continued that role with the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning and again with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction from where I will retire at the end of May 2019. My best memories of four decades in higher education include learning from my students, mentorship by my colleagues, and the friendships that were formed. I was fortunate to live out my dream of teaching history. And working at an institution that I might not have been admitted to after high school graduation. Life is a curious journey.

The reason for including the photo of Tom Hanks from "Forrest Gump" is that I think my journey is somewhat like the film character. Maybe you remember the final scene in the movie as Forrest watches his son enter the bus for the first day of school. A feather that Forrest was using as a book mark fell out and floated into the sky as Forrest, Jr. drove off to school. The narration by Tom Hanks reflected on his life and how he experienced a variety of unpredictable events along his journey. I think the same thing about me. I think of the guiding hand of God in an amazing series of events that led me to the University of Minnesota. So, whether you see it as chance or divine providence that guides a person's path, it certainly is a curious journey. I am a fortunate soul to have experienced it. I hope you are having the same satisfaction with your journey as well. Thanks for reading — David Arendale