Friday 16 Sep, 2016

Living History, With Jonathan S.

Jonathan S. is a high school History and Government teacher in La Jolla California. This January will mark his third time traveling to Inauguration with his students. Read how this experience has worked to transform his community and build a civic consciousness among his students.

“When we go to Inauguration, we go to be there among a million other people,” says Jonathan S., high school history and government teacher. “Looking around, you see people waving state flags and wearing state apparel, representing their hometowns with pride. But the truly transformative realization is that we are all coming together in one place as Americans to witness living history. For many of these students, it is their first experience becoming a part of something much larger than themselves or their communities—and what a way to have that first experience!”

Raised outside of DC, Jonathan has always been a part of the political orbit—something he considers to have been fundamental in the construction of his identity. “Because of this, I feel passionate about getting people who have not been to Washington, DC there,” he says. For a government and history teacher, deciding to take his students to experience a Presidential Inauguration seemed natural. “Experiencing Washington, DC, having the opportunity to visit places like the Supreme Court and the Capitol, and seeing our nation’s history in person: that alone is incredible. The fact that on an Inauguration Tour you get to be there with a million other people all witnessing this moment in history together…that is what feels really special.”


Engaging with others is so important to Jonathan that he even created a project called Teens Across Time. Born from his experience of having attended an Inauguration on his own before becoming a teacher, Teens Across Time encourages students to work in small groups talking to 3-4 people a day while on tour. Students complete oral histories on the people they interview, asking questions like “when was your political awakening?” and “what does it mean to you to be at the Inauguration?” to gather a wide variety of perspectives. Through this project, Jonathan witnesses students becoming their own historians. “It is exciting to them to be able to contribute to an archive of voices from the Presidential Inaugurations,” says Jonathan.

His advice to teachers attending Inauguration? Do what you can to make it the most spectacular trip possible, because the payoff is worth every moment. Click To TweetFor example, this year he has arranged for his students to meet Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Every time we take an Inauguration Tour, it becomes a more standard part of our curriculum. In fact, I have middle school students disappointed because I have to tell them that they have to wait for their turn to come,” he explains.

It is difficult for Jonathan to describe the joy he feels for being able to bring this experience to his students. “There is something about the timing that makes it feel like a much more formative experience than going later in life,” he says. “These students are able to take what they are currently learning in the classroom and see it come to life right in front of their eyes.”

For some of Jonathan’s students, going to Inauguration sparks an interest in public service. One of his former students now works for Hillary Clinton, and another student plans to move to D.C. next fall to work for Senator Diane Feinstein. And for all of the students, the real impact is that it builds within them a civic consciousness. “They have all been a part of a special moment in history. And it inspires them to fit their upcoming lives in the context of what they can do for their community, their state, their country, and even their world.” For Jonathan, this is the payoff that makes taking this trip every 4 years worth every moment.

Inspired to take your students to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration? Browse tours here

Jonathan’s group was selected to have their 2013 Inauguration tour followed by EF. Check out their experience below.