[Alumni News]

Kirk Goddard

California's Best History Teacher

KIRK GODDARD DOESN’T CLAIM a specific teaching style or philosophy. His approach to the classroom is informed more by common sense than pedagogical theory.

“If the kids want to be there, it’s the easiest job in the world,” says Goddard, a 7th and 8th grade history teacher at Jacoby Creek Charter School in Arcata, Calif. “The goal is to make it relevant to the students—to make class challenging, but enjoyable.”

Goddard, a 1989 HSU Social Sciences graduate, has certainly attained his goal of making history relevant for his students. This past fall he was honored with the Preserve America History Teacher of the Year award for California. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History sponsors the award. He was nominated by HSU History Professor Gayle Olson-Raymer, who works with Goddard supervising student teachers and has observed his teaching methods on several occasions.

“I think Gayle was impressed by the way I interact with the kids and extend their critical thinking processes,” Goddard says. “I emphasize deep thinking more so than rote memorization and I try to apply the history the students are learning to not only their present, but also their future.”

Besides encouraging discussion, the very arrangement of Goddard’s classroom promotes communication and debate. Set up in a forum-like configuration, Goddard says the idea is to “allow the students to interact and share their interpretations of history.”

“One thing I make clear from the start is that there’s no right answer in history,” he says. “History is a matter of perspective and interpretation. If there are 25 kids in the class there could be 25 right answers depending on how you look at things. As long as my students can support their answer with facts and details, that’s a valid response.”