DHS teacher chosen for WWI history scholarship
Susan Reinhiller hasn't been teaching at Dickinson High School very long, but she's already hard at work bringing her passion for history to her students--and that passion will be aided thanks to a scholarship she received to participate in an on...
Susan Reinhiller hasn't been teaching at Dickinson High School very long, but she's already hard at work bringing her passion for history to her students-and that passion will be aided thanks to a scholarship she received to participate in an online class "Legacies of World War I."
As the calendar rolls towards the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, it's important to teach the importance of a conflict so often overshadowed by the mushroom clouds of its progeny.
"This is the big year. November 11th-the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month-is a very important date," Reinhiller said. "The reality of it was that World War II overshadowed WWI but the world we live in is more influenced in WWI and in post-WWI, the Treaty of Versailles."
Without the first World War, and the conditions under which it ended, there wouldn't have been a second World War-the whole of history could've been greatly different.
With the centennial close at hand, Reinhiller wants to look at the Great War in a newer, clearer context. The traditional way of summarizing the war simply doesn't apply anymore, according to materials Reinhiller found in the online class. She spoke of a presentation by Michael Neiberg, who has written a book on WWI, and what he said about the broadly accepted causes of the conflict.
"World War I is always taught using MAIN, that the causes of World War I are militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism," Reinhiller said. "In his book, he kind of throws that off and says 'that isn't the circumstances that preceded World War I.'"
Reinhiller's webinars explore various aspects of the war, starting with the spark which ignited it and covering topics such as the role played by women, African-Americans, the U.S. homefront and the legacy of the war itself. This project is a partnership between the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and National History Day-North Dakota's chapter of National History Day specifically chose Reinhiller.
"I am very humbled ... this is something I like to do, I love to learn and I want to teach it right," she said. "I believe that as I am a teacher, I also want to be a student. This was an opportunity for me and I was just fortunate to be chosen."
According to a press release, this program is part of an educational partnership with the WWI Commission, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, National History Day, and the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
"As part of the commemoration of the centennial of The Great War, National History Day is proud to partner with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to help teachers delve into the history of this global event," National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn said in the release. "Reinhiller will learn about specific aspects of the war she can take back to the classroom to ensure this piece of global history is not forgotten."
Reinhiller described herself as a proponent of project-based learning. She said she thinks that students, and people in general, retain more from experiences than simple lecture or memorization. She said she also intends to draw in North Dakota's own local history, from the contributions of its legislators in the post-war era to the isolationist and patriotic conflicts happening within its Russian, German demographics.
"Many Germans from Russia didn't speak English in 1917, 18 ... and they feel compelled to maybe go over the top with their patriotism. The war was not popular in the United States ... (Woodrow) Wilson won his second election on 'he kept us out of war,'" Reinhiller said. "North Dakota had a very strong isolationist sentiment."
Gerald Nye, a senator from North Dakota at that time, would famously go after the "merchants of death" or arms manufacturers and businesses that profited during the war, Reinhiller said-he was a powerful voice in anti-war efforts afterward as well.
Reinhiller has been at Dickinson High for about a month now, and is a newcomer to Dickinson. She taught previously at Standing Rock Community High School.
National History Day is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than a half-million students in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.