Spotlight on the Best Gifts this APUSH Teacher Has Ever Received

All linked to the history that I teach

I love teaching AP US History, with one of the best parts of the job having to do with the super cool, history-relating gifts that I’ve received.

Gift #1 — A Postcard

This postcard features a painting that focuses on the Hudson River and the surrounding area circa 1870.

This postcard was purchased by one of my APUSH students while he was visiting colleges located along the Hudson River months after I had taught about something called the Hudson River School.

“The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose paintings typically depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains.”
— wikipedia.com

The painting featured in the post card is entitled Winter Twilight from Olana, with the work produced by Frederick Edwin Church, an American landscape painter and a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters.

Olana is located two hours north of Dobbs Ferry, NY. There, in a house overlooking the Hudson, my uncle and aunt were married after World War II and raised their kids. I know the Hudson well. In my mind, it’s a magical place and much loved.

That said, I don’t just teach about the Hudson River School because of its connection to my family's history, I teach about the school because it's something the students are required to know about for the annual APUSH Exam.

Between 1800–1848, a new national culture emerged that combined American elements, European in uences, and regional cultural sensibilities.
— APUSH Key Concept 4.1(IIB)

Between 1800–1848, liberal social ideas from abroad and Romantic beliefs in human perfectibility influenced literature, art, philosophy, and architecture.
— APUSH Key Concept 4.1(IIC)

Gift #2 — A Student-Produced Painting

It’s an acrylic produced by junior Ellie Khan and entitled Reprise. This work of art commemorates the 1871 Downtown Los Angeles Chinese Massacre.

Ellie produced this work for inclusion in a blog post that she and fellow SMHS junior Mansi G were writing for my APUSH US History class

Ellie and Mansi’s blog post is entitled “The 1871 Chinese Massacre — The Worst Lynching in U.S. History” and to date, the post has been viewed nearly 50,000 times!

Gift #3 — A Totem Pole

I like to teach the history of the Native Americans, beginning with the year 1491.

That’s the year before Columbus and the final year in which native or indigenous cultures and civilizations in the United States, and for that matter, the western hemisphere, were allowed to progress in an undisturbed way, free of widespread European contact, conquest, and genocide.

From there, my teaching of Native American history includes, at a minimum, the teaching of the following topics:

  • The meaning of the word encroachment
  • The effect of the Columbian exchange on Native Americans
  • Things of value that the Native Americans gave to the European colonizers
  • Maize cultivation and the role it played in Native American culture
  • Smallpox and its effect on the Native Americans
  • The Pueblo Revolt (1680)
  • Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–1766
  • Metacom’s War (18175–1878)
  • The Native American and the French and Indian War (1754–1763)
  • How extended contact with Native Americans and Africans fostered debate among European religious and political leaders about how non-Europeans should be treated.
  • How Bartolome de Las Casas and Juan de Sepulveda differed in terms of the question of how should the Spanish colonizers treat the Native Americans.
  • The Spanish Encomienda System and its effect on the Native Americans
  • The Spanish Mission System (1769–1833) and its effect on the Native Americans
  • How the French, British, and Spanish colonizers treated the Native Americans differently
  • The US Supreme Court case of Worchester v. Georgia (1832)
  • The Trail of Tears (1837–1839)
  • The Great Sioux War of 1876
  • The Dawes Act (1887)
  • The founding of the Carlisle Indian School (1879)
  • The birth of barbed wire (1873)
  • The birth of the American Indian Movement (1968)
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre (1890) and the Occupation of Wounded Knee (1973)
  • The decimation of the buffalo and its effect on the Native American
  • The effect of westward migration on the Native American
  • The US Supreme Court case of United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians (1980)

Given the above, it’s no wonder I was gifted the totem pole.

Gift #4— Several Student-Produced Videos

In the past three years, one of the coolest gifts I’ve been given is a series of short, high-quality, and content-rich videos designed to teach APUSH students worldwide about an important topic taught in most AP US History classes (the History of the Native Americans, for example)

In this Reading Through History knockoff video, SMHS junior Damien Chang gives a brief description of Metacom’s (King Philip’s) War with SMHS juniors Lawrence Cheung and Trystan Shen having provided much off-camera assistance.

This video was produced while Damien, Lawrence, and Trystan were enrolled in my 2020 AP US History course.

In this Reading Through History student-produced knockoff video, SMHS junior Rachel Li and Hetty Chen describe how the contagious disease smallpox impacted the Native Americans after the arrival of Columbus (1492) and until the end of Reconstruction (1877).

This video was produced while Rachel and Hetty were enrolled in my 2020 AP US History course.

Between 1865 (the end of the Civil War) and 1898 (the start of the Spanish American War) competition for natural resources and land in the West among white settlers and American Indians led to an escalation in violent conflict.

One bit of evidence in support of this claim is the Battle of Little Bighorn (aka Custer’s Last Stand.) in this extremely well done Lego stop animation video, Allain Phung and Enzo Repetto (two students enrolled in my 2019 APUSH course) walk the video-viewer through all this — the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War.

Gift #5 — A Few Other History-Relating Gifts

Below are a few more super cool gifts that I’ve received since teaching APUSH, all relating to “stuff” that I teach in the course.

My Wish List

From here out, if I had a wish list, it would be something having to do with:

  • The Lowell Mills
  • The Erie Canal
  • The Seneca Falls Convention
  • The Mississippi River Steamboats of the mid-1800s
  • The Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers
  • Jane Adams’ Hull House
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • The Whiskey Rebellion
  • The Counter-culture Movement
  • Women in the Work Force during World War II
  • Henry Ford’s Model T and/or Assembly Line
  • Anything having to do with either German or Italian immigration to the US (and this is because I was born in Germany to a German mother and a second-generation Italian father.)

Any/all gifts to be considered “gifts for the class” and to remain in the class at all times.

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Peter Paccone

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.