By: Kacey Smith
Newnan High School has a history department unlike that of any other school. At NHS,
Students have the opportunity to take history electives that are not offered at other schools.
World War II and Vietnam War are two of these electives, and both bear the signature and passion of their teachers. The lack of a core curriculum allows for more flexibility, and students are able to spend time learning the interesting facts most teachers do not have time to teach. Steve Quesinberry, Vietnam War course teacher and NHS History Department Chair, created the class when the school switched to block scheduling.
“I wanted to teach something where I decided what was important, where I can create some experiences for students that are actually interested in history,” Mr. Quesinberry said.
The Vietnam War course is very interactive, and many war veterans come to talk to students as guest speakers.
“I wanted something where people who did the stuff that we learned about would be able to come in and be able to tell about it,” Mr. Quesinberry explained. “I have about forty to fifty Vietnam vets that come in every semester.”
Mr. Quesinberry was able to meet all of these veterans through other veterans that he had met.
The Vet Connect program happens once every year. It’s a day where all of the students in the social studies department can visit the armory across the street and talk to veterans of wars from WWII to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Veterans have stations set up with displays of photos, medals and souvenirs they have saved over the years. Students have the opportunity to talk to them about their experiences and listen to the personal stories of these brave men and women.
The Vet Connect program started back around 1995 in the AV room with four or five veterans who were visiting the school for a program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of WWII. Over the years, the amount of veterans has constantly grown, and with each new veteran comes fresh stories and a new perspective for students to learn from.
The history department also holds dress-up days to encourage student interest and involvement.
On Throwback Thursdays and other dress-up days, students wear vintage clothing or clothes from various time periods. Students can dress up as anything pertaining to history whether it is dressing like a hippie or in a Civil War uniform.
Some of the outfits that can be seen around campus on these special days come from Mr. Quesinberry’s room. He has a unique collection of things that adorn his walls. Uniforms, posters, old helmets and model airplanes are all on display. Most of these items are things he has been given as gifts over the years.
One special thing that the history department is able to pull off every year alongside the math and science departments is having helicopters land at NHS. The tradition started about ten years ago as a potential safety hazard that ended up with, the then NHS principal, Dr. Barker taking a ride in a helicopter.
Pilots land actual helicopters on the football field in Drake Stadium as students watch. Students listen to the pilots talk about the helicopters as well as their personal stories of flying.
History teachers have challenged the division between teaching during school and exploring their passion for history after school. They are able to make the past live on and connect students with local history with the school’s history club.
Newnan High can proudly proclaim that, with over 140 members, it has the largest history club in the nation. Many people are curious as to how the club became so large.
“All the teachers [in the history department] are into history. They all work at it and they try to make things as interesting as possible,” Mr. Quesinberry said.
With five great sponsors, there is never a lack of things to do. These teachers spend their weekends going on field trips and doing projects alongside the students.
The sponsors of NHS History Club have a personal attachment and interest
in history, so it makes the additional hours seem like anything but their job.
“One, I really like it. Two, I want you to like it. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” Mr. Quesinberry declared.
In the local community, students are able to get involved with field trips and community service projects through the History Club. The club does a monthly cemetery clean-up at Oak Hill cemetery near downtown. Students clean off grave sites and help with the general maintenance of the cemetery.
Recent field trips have included the Carter Center in Atlanta, a tour of Andersonville National Historic Site, and a visit to many local sites featured in the movie, “Murder in Coweta County.”
With the school year only half way over, both the history department and the history club have things in store for the upcoming semester. Plans are already in place for activities including: a British invasion, a commemoration for Vietnam War soldiers and the possibility of a movie under the stars.