Home Education and Careers Padua Academy teacher Barbara Markham to work with National Humanities Center

Padua Academy teacher Barbara Markham to work with National Humanities Center

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Padua history teacher Barbara Markham looks at a piece of art with students, from left, Sophia Correale, Nadia Akumiah, Bella Poole, Journey Davis and Anne Marie Drees. Markham will spend the upcoming academic year on the teacher advisory council of the National Humanities Center. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Generations of students at Padua Academy have had the good fortune to experience a history class with Barbara Markham. Over the course of the next school year, she will be sharing her expertise with the rest of the country.

Markham is one of 20 high school and college educators from around the country who have been accepted as part of the teacher advisory council of the National Humanities Center. The council, which was established in 2016, works with the center’s educational staff to pilot, evaluate and promote resources and programs that complement its teaching and professional development materials.

To be considered for the council, Markham had to fill out an application that asked for details about what she does in her school and the community to promote the humanities. She pointed to her longtime involvement with National History Day, through which countless Padua students have made history come alive over the years, and her love for theater. The National Humanities Center fits right in with what Markham tries to do in her classroom.

“This program really emphasizes everything from politics to poetry to painting. When you’re a history teacher, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily know that background, so you use the humanities to really enrich the story of history. And that’s what I try to do,” she said.

In one of her classes this past year, Markham’s students studied art such as “The County Election,” a piece from 1852 by George Caleb Bingham. She said she asks her students to look at the paintings and tell her what they can derive about the lives of the people in it, their interests and motivations, etc.

“The painting itself becomes a document,” said Markham, who will begin her 45th year at Padua in the fall.

She is excited to join the teacher advisory council for the upcoming year because she loves to learn about the humanities. The National Humanities Center provides materials such as podcasts, lessons, documents and scholarship, she said.

She will have a virtual orientation in August, and in September she will travel to North Carolina for two days to meet with the other members of the council. The group will evaluate resources, collaborate with teachers around the United States, and learn new ways to integrate the humanities into the classroom.

Markham had hoped to apply for a spot on the council a few years ago, but like many aspects of life, COVID put a halt to that. It was at about the same time that she was busy integrating history into the arts in another project that was interrupted because of the pandemic. She was asked to create some teaching materials for a play being produced at the University of Delaware about a Jewish family in the United States’ Civil War. The Holocaust is among the topics she teaches about at Padua.

Her students admire her so much that several of them visited Padua a few weeks after their summer break had begun to be in a photograph with Markham. They spoke about how she has made an impact on their education.

“It’s great that she cares so much about history, but the enthusiasm is definitely about us,” said Bella Poole, a rising senior. “She just loves us. It feels so good to know that she cares so much about teaching us history but also if we need help ever.”

Rising junior Anne Marie Drees said she likes that Markham’s classes are interactive, and that Markham shows that there is a connection between the past and today.

“A lot of history classes are like, ‘See how tough it was back then?’ But that’s not at all what her class is about. It’s more, here are people that have gone through similar and also very different things. And also to know that we are not alone,” she said.

Rising senior Nadia Akumiah appreciates that Markham invests time into each of her students. “When I talk to her, she’s like a real, live history book because she has so much information.”

Rising junior Journey Davis has benefited from that attention. She said she struggled with advanced placement U.S. history, but Markham was always there to help.

“She would be patient with me and help me and even stay after school,” Davis said.

Markham said history gets tougher to teach as the years go by. Students have more classes, and the amount of subject material never decreases.

“When I first started, Jimmy Carter was current events. I see these students fewer times than I did then, and yet the history has gotten bigger,” she said. “So how to integrate something like the humanities when you know you have to have more stories is a real challenge for all of us in teaching modern history.”

Her thirst for knowledge remains. This summer, she will be studying “Grappling with Genocide” at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa. There is always room for growth, she said. Programs like this, she added, “serve as a tonic” and help recharge her batteries.

She’s had opportunities to teach elsewhere, but she said the academic freedom she has at Padua is not available everywhere. That is refreshing.

“People ask me, ‘Are you still at the same school?’ And I say, ‘It’s never been the same school.’ It’s the same address. I never teach the same thing twice. Sometimes, it’s the same topic, but there’s always a new way to do it. And it’s always a new class,” she said.

The students are happy she has stuck around on Broom Street.

“She means a lot because she’s taught generations of us,” rising senior Sophia Correale said. “I have a ton of friends who have mothers that were taught by her. Her presence in the community is such a great gift.”