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Tom Morton is the former coordinator of the BC Heritage Fairs and still serves as a director. He taught at the high school and university levels for more than 30 years in Kabala (Sierra Leone), Montréal and Vancouver. He is the author of numerous articles and books on education. Tom has received the British Columbia Social Studies Teacher of the Year Award, the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Kron Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education.
Why did you want to become a history teacher?
As a child I was curious about the stories of how my Mum came here alone on a free train ticket from Winnipeg or why there was a gas mask in our attic. As an adult I loved a good story but also liked to peel back the cover to see how the story was constructed.
How did you become a history teacher?
Certainly through course work and teacher training, however, mostly through on the job learning. There is a saying that one learns history "by doing history”, formulating questions, looking at evidence and the like. Similarly, I became a history teacher by “doing history teaching”, preparing lesson content and teaching strategies, studying student responses, planning with colleagues, and more of the countless things that teachers do.
What do you think the value of Heritage Fairs is for students and teachers?
Heritage Fairs can give both passion and purpose to learning history. There can be passion when students explore a topic that they care about and purpose when they share their learning with other students and adults. Heritage Fairs involve hard work, but also joy for both students and teachers.
Our core principles express well the value of Heritage Fairs, including a respect for evidence, recognizing diversity and forging links between youth and community. The Heritage Fairs program is a practical application of the ideas in the new social studies curriculum.
Cynthia Wallace wrote a charming piece entitled “10 (+1) Reasons Why Heritage Fairs Are Good for You“. Her list begins with a perhaps flippant “You do not have to listen to your teacher talk” and continues to include “Lets you make friends with elders in your community” and “You will come to see that history is complex and there are no easy answers.”Stories by or about this person