Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mr. West and Mr. Adams

Because my youngest daughter will be graduating from high school in June, I have been thinking lately about the high school experiences of both my daughters. In general, I think it has been a successful adventure for all of us. I am especially thankful that they both had the experience of knowing one outstanding teacher. Mr. West was their teacher for AP United States History, but his contribution to their lives involved more than just covering the required material. To my older daughter Mr. West offered encouragement and a boost in self-confidence. In my younger daughter Mr. West lit the spark of life-long learning.

After they covered the period of the American Revolution in class, I was surprised to hear how enthusiastic my daughter was about what they had learned. I said she might enjoy the DVD of the HBO series John Adams , which I had previously seen. We watched it together and she was hooked. “Mom, why didn’t you tell me how GOOD this was?!!” Since that time she has looked over a steady stream of books and articles about John Adams, his family and their contributions to this country’s history.

We began with David McCullough’s biography, John Adams, and his work about that all-important year, 1776. Then she discovered the works of Joseph Ellis: American Creation, Founding Brothers and his latest book, First Family: Abigail and John Adams.

She read more about the life and influence of Abigail Adams in Woody Holton’s article “Abigail Adams’ Last Act of Defiance” in the April 2010 issue of American History magazine. In the future, she can spend more time with this author’s biography, Abigail Adams: a Life and other works such as Dearest Friend: a life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey or Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts.

She will also be able to find out more about the complicated friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in books such as Ellis’ American Sphinx: the Character of Thomas Jefferson and Adams vs. Jefferson: the Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling.

Who would have thought that John Adams would be the passion of my youngest daughter’s senior year? So I say thank you to Mr. West and other dedicated teachers like him for showing students that learning only begins in the classroom.

I have enjoyed reading, viewing and listening to many of these resources along with my daughter and we recommend them to you.

Maryellen @ Warrenton

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