My Course Portfolio and Approach to Teaching History

Featured image from PICRYL. Coffee has been a lifesaver this term!

Project Showcase

To begin this portfolio, I want to highlight my final project for this class. The parameters of this project were to create an engaging history lesson, so I took inspiration from one of my favorite units in my student teaching experience. A couple of months ago, my students did a group read out of a chapter from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States about Christopher Columbus. The group read culminated in a Socratic Seminar that had students discuss the following questions:

  • Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?
  • What standards are around today that he violated?
  • Is he guilty of war crimes or was he a product of his time?

My students rocked the group read and Socratic Seminar, and this left them wanting to do similar activities in the future where they look at historical figures with contested legacies. I remember learning about Dr. Seuss’ racist background in my undergraduate history studies and I realized he would be a great topic for a group read leading up to another Socratic Seminar. For the final project, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to plan for this ahead of time. I found a collection of Dr. Seuss’ most racist cartoons that have him overtly reinforcing white supremacy and advocating for Japanese internment. These cartoons feature horribly racist caricatures that are in Dr. Seuss’ iconic art style. Each cartoon has a set of scaffolding questions that were adapted from the Stanford History Education Group’s historical thinking chart. The idea behind this learning activity is to lead up to a Socratic Seminar where students discuss how the works of Dr. Seuss, as well as Dr. Seuss himself, be remembered in history. Please see the below attachment for the lesson I developed:


Guided Slides Research Activity

The next item that I want to highlight in my portfolio is a mini research project about Shintoism, Japanese feudalism, and culture during the Edo period. This learning activity pairs nicely with a unit on Japan (assuming the aforementioned topics were covered), but if this is not the case, there are two articles and a video that can provide context. In this learning activity, students are given a set of guided slides. Students are tasked with finding one picture for each of the aforementioned topics. Then, students explain how the picture they selected relates to the theme at hand. Students are able to find a historical or non-historical picture as long as they can relate it to the theme. Students then have to answer at least two sourcing questions from the Stanford History Education Group’s historical thinking chart. The guided slides have areas for students to insert their images, connect to the theme, and answer historical sourcing questions. There is a final slide for students to compile the pictures they find into a collage. Students are given an opportunity to share their work after independent work time. The idea behind this lesson is to have students engage in research and historical sourcing skills (can be applied to contemporary sources as well) that relate to themes covered in a unit on Japan. Please see the below attachment for this lesson:

My Own History Research

The final item I want to highlight in this portfolio is my own research about Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. Several months ago, my fiancé and I were looking at apartment listings in Michigan because we are moving there in May 2022. While we were browsing, I noticed that the boundary of Dearborn Heights was highly peculiar… I knew there had to be some interesting history behind it. Fortunately, I was given the chance to conduct some historical research in this course, so I took this opportunity to look into Dearborn Heights. I expected this to be an easy, already well-researched story, but this was not the case!

The story behind Dearborn Heights is enveloped in systemic racism in Michigan. Essentially, the incorporation of Dearborn Heights was a meditated, racial gerrymander. The reason why Dearborn Heights has such peculiar boundaries today is because a significant portion of it used to belong to a predominantly Black village (now a city) called Inkster. County planners annexed roughly 10 percent of Inkster as a part of Dearborn Height’s incorporation. The annexed parts of Inkster were in the eastern areas with the lowest Black population. This annexation was fought in two separate court cases, known as Inkster v. Board of Supervisors and Taylor v. Dearborn (plaintiffs representing Inkster in both cases) and they both ended in favor of the incorporation of Dearborn Heights.

Fig. 1. Present-day map of Dearborn Heights and Inkster that indicates the boundary in question. From Google Maps, boundary of Inkster and red arrows added by me.

Fig. 2. Same map as in fig. 1, but with markings to show what Inkster would look like with its older boundaries in relation to Dearborn Heights. From Google Maps, boundary of Inkster added by me.

To learn more, I highly encourage you to check out the below attachment with my research that includes court reporter analyses, a dive into Michigan statutes, and other primary sources relating to the topic:

Final Thoughts

Between all of my classes and student teaching, this was the most brutal semester I have had in college. Fortunately, I feel that most of my hard work paid off because I am much more confident in my abilities as an educator. As I read through the posts I made in this class, I see a definite increase in my abilities to create engaging history lessons. For my first post in this course, I was asked to write about an engaging lesson in my former history studies. I remembered a mini-research project that a U.S. History high school teacher had me do, and I identified that Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was why I liked the project so much. Given that I never had a history methodology course at the time of this post, the analysis of why I liked this project was very generalized and not social studies specific. While SDT was certainly a reason why I liked the project, I now know that there was so much more at play that contributed to my engagement. In addition to SDT, I used a variety of historical thinking skills that made the assignment much more meaningful and memorable. Now that I am more confident in my teaching abilities, it is my goal as an educator to create lessons that combine elements of SDT, historical thinking skills, as well as utilize the EdTech platforms I learned about in this course to make history as meaningful for my students as it was for me.

Examining the Dark Side of Dr. Seuss: A Legendary Children’s Author Worth a Reconsideration?

Featured image from PICRYL.

Introduction & context: This document-based lesson (DBL) has students look at a collection of offensive drawings by Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. The first three images that students work with are political cartoons created during World War II, notably after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In these political cartoons, Dr. Seuss uses many offensive Japanese stereotypes while perpetuating anti-Japanese hostility in the United States. The first image is a caricature of Hideki Tojo with racially exaggerated features, while the other pictures fearmonger to promote Japanese internment. The final two pictures in this lesson are cartoons that have racist depictions of Africans and African Americans due to overemphasized pitch-black skin, big lips, as well as other exaggerated racial elements. These cartoons were created around the 1930s when overt racism was widely accepted and practiced in the United States. Due to the offensive nature of these images, this lesson is best suited for high schoolers, particularly upperclassmen.

To ensure that students have historical context, this learning activity is best timed for after, or during a unit about World War II. Students should also have at least a general understanding of the history of racism in the United States.


Essential question: How should the works of Dr. Seuss, as well as Dr. Seuss himself, be remembered in history?

Assignment: Before starting the main activity, students will be asked the following questions: “What is your experience with Dr. Seuss’ books? Do you like them? Which are your favorite? Is there anything else you know about him?” Students will informally answer these questions in a “think-pair-share” format. Once this is done, students will be given the essential question for today. Then, students will move on to the activity for today which has students look at a collection of racist drawings created by Dr. Seuss. Students will be given a set of scaffolding questions for each picture to answer on a separate piece of paper, or in a Google Document. Once students examine each document, they will be given the essential question to answer on their own; this is done individually on the document they used to answer the scaffolding questions. The scaffolding questions involve a mix of sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, as well as close reading historical thinking skills.

Cartoon 1


How is Dr. Seuss’ perspective toward Japanese portrayed in this cartoon?

What is Dr. Seuss trying to accomplish, and how is he doing it?

How might circumstances in the United States have affected the exaggerated racial elements in this cartoon?

Cartoon 2


Which historical event do you think this cartoon was created in response to?

How, and which biases does Dr. Seuss express in this cartoon?

What claims does Dr. Seuss make in this cartoon? How does this relate to what really happened in history?

Cartoon 3


What kind of symbols and images does Dr. Seuss use, and why?

How does this cartoon compare to cartoons 1 and 2?

Are cartoons 1-3 reliable?

Cartoon 4


What do you think is happening in this cartoon? What kind of source (newspaper, advertisement, etc.) do you think this this?

How does this cartoon’s portrayal of Africans indicate Dr. Seuss’ racial perspective?

What kind of symbols and images are used by Dr. Seuss to express his beliefs on race?

Cartoon 5


What is Dr. Seuss trying to convey in this cartoon? Hint: look at the other panels!

Who do you think the intended audience was for this cartoon?

How does this cartoon compare to cartoon 4? What is being emphasized, and why are these features emphasized?

Once students finish examining the cartoons with the scaffolding questions, there will be a group check-in to make sure that students are doing okay emotionally. These are very disturbing images, so a wellbeing check after the activity (as well as during) is necessary. Students will then be asked to answer the essential question on their own:

How should the works of Dr. Seuss, as well as Dr. Seuss himself, be remembered in history?

A Two-Pronged Effort to Stop Redlining in Inkster, Michigan

Featured image from the 1940 Census National Archives.

At a glance, the present-day boundary of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, is an amorphous mess. Most cities in this area are intuitively zoned, but this is not the case for Dearborn Heights. On a map, the northern and southern sections of Dearborn Heights do not have adjacent boundaries. Instead, these sections are attached by a thin, protruding boundary that is approximately a twentieth of a mile wide and two-and-half miles long (see fig. 1). This peculiar boundary even runs right through the middle of a park, which makes the same park zoned for both Dearborn Heights and neighboring city, Inkster. If you compare the boundaries of Dearborn Heights to Inkster, it seems that the boundary that connects northern and southern Dearborn Heights is like a puzzle piece that fits into Inkster perfectly. In fact, this is because the neighborhoods within this unbefitting boundary once belonged to Inkster (see fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Present-day map of Dearborn Heights and Inkster that indicates the boundary in question. From Google Maps, boundary of Inkster and red arrows added by me.

Fig. 2. Same map as in fig. 1, but with markings to show what Inkster would look like with its older boundaries in relation to Dearborn Heights. From Google Maps, boundary of Inkster added by me.

The boundary of Dearborn Heights appears to be a scattered mess when in actuality, this boundary was meticulously crafted to exclude African Americans and include the whiter portions of Dearborn and Inkster. The African American community of Inkster had a significant portion of their village annexed for the creation of Dearborn Heights in 1960. Understandably so, many Inskter residents were outraged over the annexation. The annexation was fought in two court cases, the first of which, Inkster v. Board of Supervisors, challenged that the annexation was statutorily illegal. However, a lower Michigan court ruled that the annexation of Inkster was legal because of the following clause in the Michigan Home Rule City Act:

From Michigan Compiled Laws.

This vote was held for people to be included in the incorporation of Dearborn Heights. Because of this, the vast majority of Inkster residents were shut out of the vote since the proposed boundary for Dearborn Heights included portions of Inkster that had lower African American populations. Also note that Inkster was a village during this time, so it lacked the same protections and guarantees as cities; had Inkster had cityhood, the annexation would not have been possible. The vote resulted in the northern part of Dearborn to not be incorporated into Dearborn Heights, but it included the southern part of Dearborn along with an annexed section of Inkster. Racial motivations aside, the annexation by itself was legal since people within the territory proposed for Dearborn Heights’ incorporation were able to vote on the matter.

Despite the ruling of Inkster v. Board of Supervisors, another lawsuit was filed. However, the new lawsuit challenged the annexation on constitutional grounds rather than statutory grounds. This led to the emergence of Taylor v. Dearborn in which the plaintiffs argued that the city boundary plan for Dearborn Heights was segregationist and intended to create an all-white city. “Taylor” in Taylor v. Dearborn is named Thomasina Taylor and she was a resident of Inkster who was known for community involvement. Although Taylor does not take part in Inkster v. Dearborn, her work after this ruling gave rise to Taylor v. Dearborn.

Newspaper article from April 16, 1949 showing Thomasina Taylor’s involvement in the Inkster community. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about Thomasina in the 1940 census. From Chronicling America.

Similar to the outcome in Inkster v. Board of Supervisors, Taylor v. Dearborn ruled in favor of the incorporation of Dearborn Heights, thus keeping the annexation of Inkster intact. The plaintiffs argued that the annexation violated their 14th and 15th Amendment rights because the boundaries for the incorporation of Dearborn Heights was predominantly white; the part of Inkster that was annexed also had lower concentrations of African Americans. This is indicated by the below figure of Inkster taken from Mapping Inequality (this map is from 1939).

From Mapping Inequality.

The part of Inkster that is marked in red is described as “Almost entirely occupied by negroes”, while the upper half mentions “It is doubtful that this area will improve greatly in view of the poor reputation of Inkster”. The upper half mentions nothing about race, while it is a major focus in the lower half. This indicates that more African Americans lived in the lower half of Inkster in the 1940s. This trend continued in the 1960s and is corroborated by Eugene Black, a Justice who sat on the Michigan Supreme Court for both Inkster v. Board of Supervisors and Dearborn v. Taylor. In his opinion for Taylor v. Dearborn, Justice Black acknowledged “The heaviest areas of Negro residence are in the southwest quadrant of the village, and in the westerly half of the southeast quadrant thereof west of Bayhan.”

From Mapping Inequality, gray line indicating Bayhan added by me.

What Justice Black was saying was saying is that most African Americans living in Inkster lived predominantly in the southwest quadrant and in southeast quadrant, but west of the street called Bayhan. Note that the above map is a pre-annexed map. Below is the same map, but showing the boundaries of Inkster after the annexation.

From Mapping Inequality, markings that indicate Bayhan and Inkster post-annexation added by me.

Between Justice Black’s statement about most African Americans in Inkster living west of Bayhan (again, indicated by the gray line) and corroborating data from Mapping Inequality, the portion of Inkster annexed to incorporate Dearborn Heights included areas with the lowest concentration of African Americans in Inkster. With this information in mind, it becomes clearer that the incorporation of Dearborn Heights was indeed racially motivated. Due to the Michigan Home Rule City Act, the annexers could have annexed even more land from Inkster, but the only land left to annex would be further west, and the further west you head in Inkster, the more African Americans there are. The annexation of Inkster was a blatant redline that was made possible by institutional racism since even Justice Black, who acknowledged that the annexation included very little African Americans in the boundaries of Dearborn Heights, was not racially motivated.

Effects of the Annexation

Before and after the annexation, Inkster has always been a quadrangle. Before the annexation, the length of Inkster was approximately 2.75 miles with a width of around 2.5 miles. In total, pre-annexed Inkster had approximately 6.875 square miles of land within its boundary. After the annexation, Inkster’s length was reduced to approximately 2.5 miles, and its width remained the same at around 2.5 miles. With the shrunken boundary, Inkster now has 6.25 square miles of land. This means that Inkster lost approximately .625 square miles of land after the annexation, which is roughly a ten percent loss . This had economic consequences for Inkster, since the shrunken boundaries reduced the overall income of the city; the annexed land was primarily residential, so Inkster lost a significant portion of property tax revenue.

Google Maps’ “measure distance” tool was to used to find the above numbers for my calculations.

Census housing map showing pre-annexed Inkster in 1940. From the 1940 Census National Archives.

Same map as before, but the grayed portion indicates the land lost from the annexation. From the 1940 Census National Archives, gray rectangle added by me.

Information about Inkster v. Board of Supervisors obtained from Nexis Uni.

Information about Taylor v. Dearborn obtained from Nexis Uni.

Sourcing Japanese Cultural and Historical Photos through a Collage-Based Learning Activity

Featured image from PICRYL

Target audience and setting:

This lesson is appropriate for high school students learning about Japanese history and culture in a world history class. In practice, the idea behind this activity is to be a fun way to synthesize information learned about a unit on Japanese culture and/or history, while also summatively assessing students if chosen to do so. For the sake of this class, the information we are learning is condensed because of time constraints!


Shintoism, Japanese feudalism, and unique cultural developments that took place during the Edo period will be studied. In the case of a high school history class, these topics are interesting and important to learn because many high schoolers are fans of anime, manga, and Japanese culture as a whole. Many areas of Japanese culture are heavily influenced by Shintoism, and much of anime and manga have themes of Japanese feudalism. The Edo period, which was an era of isolation due to “Sakoku” policies, ushered in unique cultural developments which is not only seen in anime and manga, but throughout many sectors of Japanese society today.

As an aside, a staggering number of my students love Japanese culture and want to learn more about it. Of course, my experience is far from universal, but the popularity of anime and manga has increased over the years (as well as interest in Japanese culture) so this lesson will resonate most for students with these interests.


  1. Students will have read two short articles about Japanese feudalism and culture during the Edo period. (0 minutes)
  2. First, I will introduce the themes we are learning about in class today which are Shintoism, Japanese feudalism, and culture during the Edo period. Students will already be familiar with Japanese feudalism and culture during the Edo period. (1 minute)
  3. I will then play a short YouTube video that gives a brief overview of Shintoism. (4 minutes)
  4. Next, I will introduce the activity we are working on today, which is a mini-collage students will create using a guiding Google Slides document. The first slide is about Shintoism, the second slide is about Japanese feudalism, and the third slide is about culture during the Edo period. Each of these slides has an area for students to insert their photo of choice, as well as a text box to connect the photo to the theme at hand. In these same text boxes, students must answer at least two of the following sourcing questions from the Stanford History Education Group:
    1. Who wrote/created this?
    2. What is the author’s perspective?
    3. Why was it written/created?
    4. When was it written/created?
    5. Where was it written/created?
    6. Is the source reliable? Why? Why not?
      1. There is a fourth slide for students to create a collage. (3 minutes)
  5. After going over the instructions, I will show an example of a completed activity. (1 minute)
  6. I will give a demo of Picryl and Creative Commons-friendly Google Searching to show how these resources can find historical pictures. (1 minute)
  7. Work time! We will all work in the same Zoom room, so I will be able to answer questions as they come up. (12 minutes)
  8. Sharing time! For the remainder of class, students will be invited to share their collage on their fourth slide. Do not identify the pictures on this slide because other students will guess which of the three themes each picture represents! (6 minutes maximum)


Article about Japanese feudalism to read before class

Article about culture during the Edo period before class

YouTube video about Shintoism

Example Google Slides to explain the activity


Guided Google Slides to complete the activity