From Chris Lemley, former HOTRHF student and NHD teacher in Guatemala:
As history educators, we each recognize the magic of history yet we often struggle to impart this same passion for the past to our students. Faced with the challenge of retooling my curriculum several years ago, I asked myself what it was that made history come to life in my imagination. That is when I remembered the National History Day program.
As a student participant in the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair, I was afforded research experiences that forever changed my perspective on the investigative process, historical analysis and interpretation, and project design and implementation. But perhaps most importantly, I began to see history as a living process, touching the world in which I lived. I recall speaking with ordinary South Africans - one black, another Indian, a third a white Afrikaner - for a project on their nation's transition period and hearing the tension, pain, and pride in each of their voices. I remember sitting in the Baylor University Texas Collection’s reading room, holding in my hands the personal papers of Texas’s first post-Reconstruction democratic governor and feeling as though Gov. Richard Coke was speaking from the late 1800s directly to me.
Later, as an NHD classroom teacher I beamed as I saw my students react in the same ways. On a trip to a research archive, my students fought to be the next to slip on the archives' protective gloves to hold in their hands a book older than their country. I relished answering frantic emails from students giddy with the discovery of a new primary source. Never have I been as proud as I was when I watched a handful of my students competing at National History Day finals and speaking on their topic with an authority on par with experts in the field and an enthusiasm that I recognized well. At that moment, history was more than the sum of its citations, footnotes, journal entries, and sepia-toned photographs. History was ALIVE!