Ashland graduate earns Ohio History Teacher of the Year honor

Emily Marty explains the significance of a veterans' memorial during a walking tour with one of her classes from Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst.

ASHLAND, Ohio --- There are benefits to being a self-described “history nerd” – just ask Emily Marty.

She was Emily Miller when she graduated from Ashland University in 2006 and was ready to start her teaching career. And now, 15 years later, Marty has been named the state’s 2021 History Teacher of the Year. The honor is bestowed by the New York City-based Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which was established nearly 30 years ago to promote the study and interest in American history

A total of 8,510 nominations were received from around the country and U.S. territories, which the Institute reports was the most competitive field ever. Every state and territory are represented by one outstanding history teacher.

“I knew I was nominated,” Marty said.  “I had to fill out an application, provide a sample lesson plan and a resume and references.” She got the good news while visiting Cedar Point with her family.

Not bad for someone who initially wanted to teach English.

Marty spent her first undergraduate year at Concordia University in Illinois, eventually changing her focus to history. But the future educator, originally from Amherst, wanted to be certified to teach in Ohio. “I had been to Girls’ State at Ashland as a high schooler, so (Ashland University) was familiar,” she said.

It didn’t take Marty long to appreciate the AU history and political science faculty, including Christopher Burkett, Jeff Sikkenga and John Moser. Ironically, she said, her sister had some of the same professors when she recently completed her Master of Arts in History and Government.

Marty’s stay on campus didn’t last long, as she opted to do her student teaching abroad in Ireland. As a future teacher, she said, “I thought it was important to look at another view.”

She graduated from Ashland with bachelor’s degrees in education and history and went on to receive her master’s in history from Cleveland State University.

Then she went home – to Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst – her alma mater in her hometown. Since 2008, she’s taught a variety of courses: world history, American history, geography, religion. Her favorites, Marty said, are probably Civilizations 1 and Civilizations 2, courses usually populated by College Credit Plus students and likely those students she’s had in lower-level courses.

“I’m really content driven,” said Marty. She’s also a believer in students knowing local and regional history. “I do a lot of hands-on work” in places like the nearby Oberlin Art Museum and on walking tours trying, she said, to tie that local history to American history, looking to Oberlin for the role it played in the Underground Railroad to the contributions of Lorain native Toni Morrison, to the industrial culture of the greater Cleveland area.

Because history is becoming more and more politicized, Marty holds the firm belief in the importance of studying original documents and encouraging students to engage in critical thinking.

Though she understands the ever-growing numbers of teachers leaving the field, citing burn-out, Marty said, “I can’t see myself doing anything else. For me, it’s my love of history and of the students.” So she offered some advice to those ready to begin their own teaching careers: “Don’t get too stressed out about job hunting; you’ll land where you’re supposed to be. And find your passion; the kids will follow your path.”

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.eduvalues the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###