Suffern High School English teacher Ian Diamond spent a week exploring New York City history as a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Scholar.
Diamond took part in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History seminar “Empire City: New York and the Transformation of American Life, 1877-1929,” led by historians Kenneth T. Jackson and Karen E. Markoe.
The NEH Summer Scholars program aims to promote the use of primary sources in K-12 instruction. Participating educators attend lectures, visit landmark sites and work with documents that they can incorporate into their curricula.
“The course looked at immigration and industry and how these forces transformed neighborhoods,” Diamond explained. “We spent most afternoons doing walking tours around the city. It felt a bit like archaeology, discovering evidence of what we had learned in our morning lectures.”
In one neighborhood, the connection between past and present was unexpectedly personal. A group bus tour in the Bronx passed, coincidentally, through the area where Diamond had taught before coming to Ramapo Central in 2000.
“I hadn’t been back to the area since,” he said. “The neighborhood has evolved in a positive sense. It was great to see how far it’s come.”
Back at Suffern High School, Diamond has assigned primary documents to inform discussion of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed” in his AP Language and Composition course. He noted that tying literature to history makes it more relevant for students and inspires them to think more deeply.
“My hope is that students will want to go out and find out-of-the-way historical sites and explore for themselves,” Diamond reflected. “I’d like to them to be curious about the world around them.”
Photo caption: Suffern High School English teacher--and NEH Summer Scholar--Ian Diamond is using primary sources to bring literature to life in his AP classes this year.