N.C. History Teacher of the Year Amy King ’01MED: ‘I Was Blessed With a Dad Who Enjoys Learning History as a Hobby’
When she was growing up in Bear Creek, N.C., Amy King ’01MED thought her dad had the best job in the world. He was an agriculture education teacher at Chatham Central High School, where he won 17 National Future Farmers of America Championships with multiple student teams over 45 years.
“[My dad] was always teaching. He worked 12 months out of the year and I would spend my summers on the school campus with him,” said King. “I was totally envious at how they hung on every word and were motivated by his love for them. His passion was contagious and spread even to me.”
Back then, she would make her own social studies tests for her pretend classroom. Her family would also travel to historical sites and watch history movies, sparking her interest in history at a young age. And she always enjoyed social studies in school, but didn’t really get engrossed in the subject until her undergraduate studies.
“I particularly enjoyed reading primary source documents for class and learning how history is written,” she said. “I also was blessed with a dad who enjoys learning history as a hobby. His favorite movies related to World War II and Vietnam, ironically, my favorite wars to teach.”
Today, she’s a high school U.S. history teacher at the same school her dad taught at for 45 years and her alma mater. And she brings that same passion to her classroom and impacts the lives of her students just as she witnessed from her father.
“I have always believed that teaching is a calling placed on a life. And I have always felt that calling.”
Her love for teaching is evident as King was named the 2019 Gilder Lehrman North Carolina History Teacher of the Year and is a 2019 Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year finalist.
“I am honored that Gilder Lehrman places an emphasis on American history education and has chosen to shine a light on my work at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C. It’s humbling,” King said.
Growing up with an NC State College of Education alumnus in her midst, King was familiar with the college. Her dad, Julian Smith ’65, ’70MED, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the college. It was his positive experiences and the reputation of the college that influenced her to attend NC State for graduate school.
“I knew I needed to know more in order to best serve my students,” she said. “My NC State learning experience really made me think critically about historical and educational issues. I am thankful each and every day for my Master of Education degree. It allowed me to deepen my understanding of the teaching of American history and therefore made me a much stronger educator for our North Carolina students.”
As an educator who has been in the field for about 20 years, King uses creativity to teach history. She describes her teaching style as digitally innovative and student centered. She uses HyperDocs in her classroom, creates digital breakouts for her students to navigate, designs learning trails outside as hands-on learning tools and regularly invites speakers to share oral histories.
“We have listened to stories of a 9/11 World Trade Center survivor, a Holocaust survivor, and a Vietnam War officer killed in action, with his brother sharing artifacts, letters, and memories,” King said.
Her students are also given a bit of a choice on what they want to learn and study.
“I have a student-centered classroom,” she said. “Students can choose which topics to study, such as choosing a team and battle in creating WWII iMove stop animation battles or creating Screencast videos where teams and topics are chosen by students, such as a video on the impact of the lightbulb on society using only primary source pictures from early 1900.”
Just like her father, King has developed a passion for teaching high school students.
“What I enjoy most about teaching is developing relationships with students. High schoolers are my passion and I love to watch them learn and grow — both mentally and physically — during the course of one to two years,” she said. “Nothing delights me more than to teach a student who has had little success in other classes but becomes passionate about history in mine.”