Educator Spotlight History is Present

Meet Meaghan and Mark


This is a series where we introduce educators who work with us at the Museum and help us help other teachers. Meet Meaghan Rymer and Jonathan “Mark” Grow, members of our Teacher Advisory Council!

Meaghan Rymer of Richmond, VA

Meaghan Rymer

Where and what do you teach?

I am a 7th grade US History II teacher at River City Middle School in Richmond, Virginia.

Give us your twitter-length philosophy of education.

I believe children, especially teenagers, want to know the truth of what really happened in history. It is our duty as educators to step out of our comfort zones, educate ourselves, and teach as open and as honestly as possible.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of teaching social studies and the Civil War era?  

The most challenging aspect of teaching social studies is how limited our standards can be. So many stories can be told for every single historical event and our curriculum often leaves out the most important voices. The challenge comes when, as teachers, we want those stories to be told but have to choose which ones. When teaching the Civil War Era, I always find that students lose interest the moment they have to learn battles and dates. The challenge is finding ways to keep them engaged and interested.

What strategies do you use in your classroom to overcome those challenges?

The main strategy I use to overcome some of these challenges is by researching people and their experiences and presenting the information through their stories. I use a lot of primary sources, especially photographs to help the students connect the people to the events. 

Tell us about your experience collaborating with the museum and being part of ACWM’s Teacher Advisory Council.

I have been a member of the ACWM’s Teacher Advisory Council for 6 years. The museum’s resources and expertise has helped both in my classroom and with work I have done outside the classroom. It was an honor to be able to preview the new main exhibition and help the staff form meaningful resources for educators. I have learned a great deal about the Civil War and teaching strategies from other members of the council.


Mark Grow of Raleigh, NC

Joanathan “Mark” Grow

Where and what do you teach?

​I teach at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, NC. I teach IB History of the Americas and Lessons of Vietnam. IB History has a focused study of the early national and middle periods of US History. My curriculum culminates with the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

Give us your twitter-length philosophy of education.

My teaching philosophy is rooted in a desire for students to develop a personal and lasting interest in both the past and today’s world. Sparking students’ personal interest is key to their engagement with the past. Once this spark for real learning happens, students take ownership of their own education, which will always be with them.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of teaching social studies and the Civil War era?

The most challenging aspect of teaching social studies is creating and maintaining a classroom culture of positive inquiry about the past and its effects on people today. My students come from all different backgrounds. Some can trace thier roots to the first New England and Jamestown colonies. Others have no knowledge at all. Some discover that their ancestors owned people. Some of their classmates discover that their ancestors were enslaved. Having an open discussion about Thomas Jefferson, his half-brother, and meaning of the Declaration of Independence with students of varied backgrounds and perspectives is a challenge. Having an open conversation about the complexities of the past is something students want to do, but first they need to know that having a worthwhile conversation means listening to others in a calm manner and having a productive response.

What strategies do you use in your classroom to overcome those challenges?

Creating a safe and positive environment is crucial. Students need to feel that their opinions can be safely shared and heard. Students need to be shown that it is ok to listen, hear, and how to question another’s’ opinion. Public discourse is negatively charged right now, and students need to be exposed to the idea that that is not normal or healthy. I work hard in my classes to set protocols and model examples for how to question and challenge others’ opinion with the goal of understanding, rather than judging. 

Tell us about your experience collaborating with the museum and being part of ACWM’s Teacher Advisory Council.

It has been heartening to hear that other teachers share a similar teaching philosophy and experience the same challenges. The resources for teachers and opportunities for classes to learn from the Museum’s displays are wonderful additions to my curriculum. Being a part of this group is helping me present the past and facilitate discussions that link the past to the present in a meaningful and productive way.