Teacher plans to make history "personal"



If Cross Creek High School history teacher Lauren Beck had any first day jitters, she didn’t let anyone in her first period class know it.

As Beck reads off the school syllabus and details classroom rules, she speaks confidently, making eye contact with her students as she walks around the front of the classroom. She cracks jokes, keeping her recitation of the rules lighthearted.

“This is the most boring thing you’ll do here for the rest of the year,” Beck said. “I promise.”

When Beck completes her discussion of the rules, she breaks her students into groups. She gives them a list of questions to ask each other, ranging from their favorite musicians to their dream vacation spots.

Beck has the students introduce their group mates to the class, occasionally commenting on their answers. One student says her favorite school subject is science. Beck laughs.

“We’re going to have to change that,” Beck said. “Don’t worry. You’ll love history if you learn it from me.”

Beck, 24, is one of 197 teachers hired by Richmond County’s school system over the past year. And even though it’s the Augusta native’s first day of her first teaching job, Beck already has big plans for her career.

She aims to not just instill a love of U.S. and world history in her students, but hopes to inspire a passion for exploring the past that could change lives.

“When I was at open house, I asked all the students that came to talk to me whether they loved history or not,” Beck said. “One of them said she hated it. So I said ‘Girl, I’m going to change your mind.’ That’s what I want to do. I want some of my students to want to pursue knowledge of history in their own future careers.”

It might seem like an ambitious goal for a first-year teacher, but Beck knows she can accomplish it. After all, a high school history teacher inspired Beck to revolve her life around history.

When Beck was a high school student in Columbia County, her AP European History teacher inspired her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., and a master’s degree in teaching secondary history at Georgia Regents University.

“It wasn’t just dates and names with him. He would incorporate art, music, fashion and other details that really brought history home to me,” Beck said. “He was a great teacher, and because of him I wanted to dedicate myself to studying history.”

Beck hopes to use a similar teaching style to engage her students. She keeps family heirlooms in her classroom, some dating back to the turn of the century. She plans to use these heirlooms and stories of her family’s history to help “bring history down to a more personable level.”

“I know many stories that my family has passed down, and I have these items that have these personal stories attached to them,” Beck said. “It’s the best way to make connections with students and make things personable. If you bring it down to a personal level, history can be really awesome to learn about.”
She also hopes to be a teacher students can identify with, not “a mythical distant creature.”

“I don’t want them to think I’m completely unrelatable,” Beck said. “I want them to learn things about me and I want to learn things about my students. If I can build that relationship, I can be a great teacher … I love Cross Creek, and I’m all Razorback.”