This winter, Upper School (US) History and Social Sciences Department Head Gustavo Carrera became the school’s first teacher to win the American Historical Association (AHA)’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize, which annually recognizes an individual or school for excellence in teaching or for creating an initiative applicable to the entire field, according to the AHA website.
The AHA, the largest professional organization serving historians in all fields and all professions, recognized Mr. Carrera for his leadership in creating a new American and Global History sequence—which requires students to take at least one course with a global component during high school—and in redesigning the eleventh-grade United States History curriculum, the AHA website said. Mr. Carrera described this new curriculum as a holistic approach to United States history.
“[The history program] provides a connection between content and pedagogy,” Mr. Carrera said. “The students read and write as historians in a high school context, rather than merely read and respond to a textbook.”
Implemented in 2015, the new eleventh-grade curriculum engages students in historical conversation and inquiry-based learning by asking them to explore and debate 12 central problems over the course of the school year, US History Teacher Ross Clark said. The history department dropped the course’s previous textbook and wrote textbook-style narratives for each problem, each including a variety of primary and secondary sources. Mr. Carrera helped write the course and its materials, which were designed for general use by any teacher and are available on an interactive website.
Mr. Clark nominated Mr. Carrera for the award in 2017, a process that included sending the AHA a letter summarizing Mr. Carrera’s achievements and qualifications, his resume, and additional supporting materials. Mr. Clark said he nominated Mr. Carrera for his commitment to promoting global history at the school. He also wanted to recognize Mr. Carrera’s excellence as a teacher, Mr. Clark said.
“His enthusiasm for the discipline is contagious, and he seeks to nurture in each student a deep enthusiasm for history.” Mr. Clark said. “He often hears in his classes that, before having him as a teacher, students did not enjoy the study of history; however, in his classes, history came alive.Ultimately, students walk away from his classes having a better understanding of history and enjoying its study.”
Mr. Carrera discovered he won via email in October. He then traveled to AHA’s annual conference in Washington D.C. this January to accept the honor alongside winners of nearly 40 other AHA awards in recognition of excellence in a variety of historical fields.
Mr. Carrera, who has taught at the school since 2008, said he was excited to have received the award.
“I was delighted,” he said. “I was glad to see that all the work the department had done at BB&N was found to have merit.”
US History Teacher Susan Glazer said she felt as though the prize recognized all of the hard work from the entire history department.
“As our leader and our department chair, [Mr. Carrera] definitely had a vision,” she said. “There’s been a lot of consensus about where we want to go as a department and how we wanted to redesign the course, but he’s been very good at getting it done and implementing it, seeing the strengths in people, and using those strengths to get us to push ourselves and to push this department forward.”
US History Teacher Matt Turnbull also expressed appreciation for the changes Mr. Carrera made to the United States History curriculum.
“Some of the things [Mr. Carrera did], like getting rid of the textbook for the eleventh-grade [United States History] class, were a little bit of a risk, and I think the award in part is recognizing and reinforcing these decisions,” Mr. Turnbull said. “It’s nice for him to be recognized for taking a more difficult path for a better outcome for the teachers and students.”
Graham Huntington ’20, a sophomore in Mr. Carrera’s American and Global History: Case Studies I class, said he thought his teacher deserved the award because of his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject.
“He is incredibly smart,” Graham said. “He also has a great sense of humor and passion for history.”
Mr. Carrera said the Teaching Prize was important not just for himself but for the history department as a whole.
“I feel that this award recognizes not my individual contributions to classroom instructions but to the work the department has done over the years. I really wish it could be an award for all of us, as we have all contributed to courses we are teaching,” he said. “I want to thank the school and the department for the curriculum we have built together.”