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Midgett Makes History Classes Come Alive

Daniel Midgett in class

Daniel Midgett's Mohawk attire surprises junior high students.

SIUE history education graduate Daniel Midgett doesn't dress in "barely there" Native American garb every day--only on certain occasions when student taught at Edwardsville High School.

Midgett understands the importance of "living history." He used a unique interactive method in his teaching for both American and medieval history classes at Edwardsville High School, under the guidance of teacher Jon Parkin.

"Living history" is a concept Midgett believes is vital in showing students not only the facts, but the meaning of history. He has been participating in historical reenactments for the last five years, and said it motivated him to infuse costumes and action into his teaching. On one notable occasion, Midgett dressed as a member of Mohawk tribe from the mid 1700s, pre-Revolutionary War and spoke to a class of high school juniors.

"You can only keep the kids' attention for so long," he said. "When the teacher comes in dressed up, the kids are like 'oh, my gosh.'"

The Flat Rock, Ill. native realizes students are not as interested in history as most the instructors who teach the subject, and flamboyant teaching techniques are the best way to convey a message to students.

"I hopefully sparked a couple of kids' interest to go out and find out more or figure out what this history means to them," he said.

He discovered his own love for history in the fifth grade, and his elementary school teachers encouraged him to pursue his dreams. When he got to SIUE, his professors gave him the motivation to go out and practice "living history" in the classroom.

"I had some really great teachers at SIUE," he said. "They helped show me that you can't just come into a class everyday and just talk." Midget cites Assistant Professor Jason Stacy and former Assistant Professor Stefan Bradley from SIUE's Historical Studies Department as being especially inspirational.

"They both really opened my eyes to the meaning of history," he said. "Though, I enjoyed every one of the history teachers I had at SIUE."

Midgett said he will be taking tips from his professors in his teaching in the future, though his teaching career may not come to fruition anytime soon.

"As far as teaching goes, it depends on where my army career leads me to," he said. Midgett was enlisted in ROTC and become an Army Lieutenant following his December 2008 graduation.

"I'll still be teaching, though," he said. "Even though it's the Army, there will always be times when I'll have to teach my men."

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