This year our admirable and inspiring history teacher Mr. Toby Harms has set off on another NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) trip. This year marks his ninth year of traveling the world to better understand and increase his knowledge for his classes. The NEH program has allowed him to travel to places like Laramie, WY, Springfield, MO, Fort Niagara, NY, Kansas City, MO, Cleveland, MS, Spokane, WA, Columbus, OH, and Long Beach, CA. NEH accepts thousands of applications but only thirty-five were accepted for the workshop titled “Cold War Home Front: Aerospace in Southern California, 1941-1981”. After the huge pile of paperwork and a two page essay, Mr. Harms very fortunate to get picked the ninth time. He is certainly in an elite category.
This year the NEH sent Mr. Harms to Long Beach, CA. While he was there he spent a day at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. They also took him to a Cold War Museum, the Long Beach airport, and Rosie the Riveter Park. As much as he enjoyed the tours and entertainment his favorite part was a roundtable discussion with five men and women who had all been engineers on the space shuttle program, and four of the five worked on President Reagan’s SDI Missile Program. Everything was on the table for discussion. They talked about who decided what info is classified (and how people got around it), what morale was like after the space shuttle disasters, and what it was like to find out someone in your department was a spy. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ll never forget”.
As much fun as it is for Mr. Harms to go on a NEH trip every year it also is helpful for his students. For a student it is much more interesting if you can listen to someone that has been to a place that you are learning about in class. Mr. Harms says he believes he does a better job of teaching something if he has actually been there. Mr. Harms is definitely passionate about his content and curriculum and brings to life the many places he has been.
After classes are done for the day, most of the teachers go out and explore. This year in the evening they went to a Dodgers’ game, spent some time walking Seal Beach, attended the “Taste of Long Beach”, and went to an Argentine restaurant to watch an Argentina/Colombia soccer match. Mr. Harms doesn’t care for soccer, but the environment was awesome and he got lucky enough to run into basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton.Even though Mr. Harms loves to expand his knowledge and conduct heavy research to bring back to his classes, he is always happy to come home and share his stories with his friends and family. He tells his wife that he might take a year off, but there are still workshops in New Orleans, Louisiana and Provo, Utah that might change his mind.
By Klayton Kroll
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