OAK FOREST, Ill. — It’s a new school year and while so many teachers are faced with teaching virtually from their homes or empty classrooms, one teacher in south suburban Oak Forest took his American history class on the road.
Mike Brown has been a teacher for 28 years. The last 20 he spent at Oak Forest High School with American history as his specialty. This fall, with his students stuck at home, he took e-learning to the next level.
Brown took his Hyundai and hit the road to show his students historic sites around the country.
He left the Chicago area on Aug. 28 and headed east for Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and doubled back through Pennsylvania again, before hitting Virginia and Washington D.C.
He teaches five classes a day, roughly 30 minutes each from some of America’s most talked about tourist destinations.
He also took some time to teach his students about the challenges of travel. In this road trip, Brown had to outrun a hurricane, beat a tornado, and even endured a car break-in.
But at the Granary Cemetery, Brown taught his students yet a different lesson: That the world we know today, filled with uncertainty and unrest is part of the American fabric — who we’ve always been. History tells us so.
“Protest is what America is born out of,” he said. “And sometimes it’s violent.”
One important point this seasoned teacher hopes to drive home to his student audience is that protesters throughout history weren’t just angry to be angry. They were angry with a purpose.
The unique tactics of Brown is leaving an impression on his students’ hearts, an imprint on their brains and maybe just maybe, inspiring a class of kids to get out and experience history first hand when it’s safe to do so again.
Until then, Brown is making it worth their while to show up for class.
He said this trip was a vivid reminder of the importance of doing what you love.
“You need to find a career where it doesn’t feel like you’re working. and, I’ve never worked a day,” he said. “I love what I do. I love doing it here where I’m at, so it’s really not that much to give back.”
If kids are not back in the classroom by October Brown said he might be planning another history lesson from the road. But he’s an optimist and hopes seeing his students headed back to class is the next best trip he could hope for this fall.