Todd McElroy likes to use present-day technology to teach about the past. It’s not unusual for the High School World History Teacher to use newsreels, photos, and even a video game to engage his students during a live session. “I enjoy sharing history with my students. A lot of it is telling a good story and showing how it relates to the students,” he explained.
Mister McElroy is in his 15th year teaching, half of those years at University View Academy. He followed his wife to UVA after teaching in brick-and-mortar schools and having jobs at college level admissions, athletics, and student life. He held positions at a junior college in Kansas, Houston Baptist University, and SLU in Hammond. Mister McElroy considers himself well-rounded from the experiences saying humorously, “I’m a good Yankee who learned to dodge tornadoes, cook good bar-b-que, and still mastering gumbo.” He’s originally from Pennsylvania. Mister McElroy said there was a smooth transition to the virtual world of UVA, calling it “… just a continuation in educating students.”
His love of history led him to his degree and then teaching. He called history the “why” in the world and learning it is like lifting a curtain to find out what’s behind it. “History will provide the “why” if you know where to look,” Mister McElroy explained. But he also said he knows some students don’t share his love of history, and he must make it relatable to engage the kids. “If it’s not relatable, odds are the kids are not going to retain it,” he offered. That’s where the marriage of creativity and technology has served him and his students.
One current lesson is about the Arts Renaissance, a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. It covers the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an effort to revive and surpass ideas and achievements of classical antiquity. So, he set up a virtual tour of the LSU Museum of Art where his students could see some examples of period art.
He also showed a news broadcast about the Bay of Pigs Invasion of the 1960s and photos of the original 1920 Ford Motor Company assembly line to compare it to 2019. Mister McElroy even used scenes from the video game Assassin’s Creed to help with his lesson on the City-States of Italy. He gives credit to UVA for the opportunity to try different teaching techniques to interest and engage students, so they ultimately reach the goal of understanding why events happen. Or, as Mister McElroy said, “When they watch the news ten years from now, it’ll be hold on! They can remember and examine why it’s going on.”