In what has become a defining moment of my entire life, my first true humanities moment provided clarity and direction for my future in the midst of all things awkward about being a middle school student.

Doing well in school was a safety net for me. The excitement of learning new things and the validation that came with “good grades” and being a teacher’s pet type person were anchors in a time of social and hormonal upheaval and a family move the summer before 8th grade. If I was going to be at a new school, at least I knew I would do well in my classes, (failing math for a grading period, not withstanding, I mean, this isn’t my “math moment,” it’s my humanities moment). My 8th grade US History and language arts teacher, Mrs. Batsford, was young and energetic, and seemed to genuinely like us and think we were fun humans. Now, after teaching 9th graders for 20 years, I know just how special that was. But it was the creativity with which Mrs. Batsford presented content that really created my humanities moment.

One day while studying the Civil War, Mrs. Batsford had us spend an entire class period constructing a “city” out of empty milk cartons. She gave us no context or explanation for this craft project, just set us to work. The next day, our city was complete and laid out on a large table. She came out from behind her desk and I watched in shock as she climbed up on top of the table wearing big laced-up boots with her early 90’s long floral dress. Without a word, she began stomping all over our milk carton city with her big giant boots, flattening every single little crafted square while we watching with our mouths hanging open. Her destruction complete, she daintily got back down from the table and said, “that’s what happened during Sherman’s march to the sea.”

I was floored. I couldn’t believe a teacher would behave in such a demonstrative manner and do something that seemed so brash, just for the purpose of helping us understand something. In that instant I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to help students learn history with a little drama and a lot of storytelling. I began on a path that day, that has guided my steps from 8th grade to now, a 21 year veteran of teaching history. Later I learned that Mrs. Batsford’s dramatized version of razing cities to the ground was not quite the real story of what happened during that episode of the Civil War. That never diminished the importance of this moment and what it showed me about how people can connect with history. She made me want to learn more. And that is certainly a legacy worth striving for.

– Kim Karayannis (FCPS Social Studies teacher)