Seven Chapters In African American History: How This History Course at TI Came to Be
Jerome Price, the high school teacher who will lead the African American history course at Tikvat Israel in January and February, granted an exclusive online interview to the editor of the Tikvat Israel Bulletin, Jay P. Goldman.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
Q. How did you and Rabbi Israel manage to get linked up on this unusual initiative?
Price: Rabbi Israel reached out to me following the Rockville protests last summer. During this period of racial reckoning, he was interested in sharing diverse stories with his congregation.
Lauren Payne, Nora Elsayed and Alexis Crawley, the organizers and leaders of the Rockville protest, are all former students of mine. These three young ladies shared their experience with the Tikvat Israel Congregation earlier this year. Rabbi Israel thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for me, their teacher, to present a series of lessons that spoke to the African American experience in a creative, thoughtful and informative way. I am honored to lead this wonderful opportunity.
Q. You’ve been a high school and middle school teacher in Montgomery County for a half dozen years. Have you conducted such a seminar for adults previously?
Price: I have taught many middle and high school students about the history of African Americans. I am proud to say that this will be the first time I am teaching this history and leading conversations about race with adults.
Q. Do you address some of these topics in your classes at Richard Montgomery, presumably in somewhat less detail?
Price: Every topic listed in this seven-session series is covered in the African American history course I designed and teach at Richard Montgomery High School. It is impossible to teach everything about the history of African Americans in seven sessions. So I pulled together a combination of the lessons my students really enjoyed that span a range of topics and time periods. I think this provides great perspective for students of all ages and lends itself well to the rich conversations we will have as a community of learners.
Q. How much more challenging is your high school teaching in virtual mode during this pandemic compared to what you experienced prior to last March?
Price: My passion and energy for teaching history has not really changed since March. What has changed dramatically is how instruction is delivered. I tend to have and exude a great deal of energy when teaching history. I think it’s the most important subject there is! Understanding the past is golden. We can all learn from it.
Still, technology does have its drawbacks. As a teacher, you have to be very intentional about building a strong classroom community. It can be difficult to read students and understand how the pandemic has impacted their families and individual lives when you are not afforded those daily organic encounters in the hallways between periods.
I still have hope that we will get through this period. I tell my students all the time that they are living through a chapter in history.
More information about the African American History course can be found here.