Life can be ironic, especially at a time when people find themselves in a situation they don’t expect. Such was the case for Richland history teacher Christopher Manes, winner of the Excellence in Teaching award for adjunct faculty given at the Richland Convocation on Aug. 23.
As a high school student, Manes, like many current high school and college students, classified history as a boring subject. He never envisioned teaching history. His love of history started when he attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His history instructor was Vaughan Baker.
During the first class, Baker declared, “History is the study of our human experience. But to understand that experience, you have to see it through multiple perspectives and understand it as each individual lives it,” Manes said.
Like beautiful symphonies that delight the ears, that utterance changed Manes’ feelings about the subject. That’s why today Manes is a teacher. Not just a teacher, but an excellent history teacher. In addition to history, he teaches English and creative writing, as well the capstone, a year-long research project high school seniors must complete to graduate. History is his favorite though.
In Baker’s classes, history became real to Manes. It was no longer just about kings, queens, heroes and other people he studied. Manes began thinking about his aunts, uncles and great grandparents. This was one of the main things that sparked his love of history and inspired him to teach.
He encourages his students to feel the subject.
“To make [the students] realize history is not just a bunch of dead people that they may or may not have connections to, but to get them to realize that, in most cases, they are just two, three to four generations from the time period studied. And most importantly, to construct their own histories,” Manes said.
It’s one thing if students think about U.S. history as something they’ve been told and lectured about. It’s something different when they’re asked to think about their own pasts and look at parallel events.
Manes urges students to follow their own visions and to be more than content with the learning process. He urges students to learn a skill. For Manes, following his passion has helped him land just where he feels he’s supposed to be.