Friday, June 18, 2021

7 Questions with Della Cayson, History Teacher and Writer


Currently teaching U.S History and African American/Black Studies on a high school level, Della Cayson is also on the board of a community service organization which feeds the homeless, supports battered women’s shelters and assists students, known as H2H /Here 2 Help, Inc. In 2014 she became a self-published author of African American fiction and is currently working on her 5th book. Although she was an alternatively trained teacher, she enjoys her students and facilitates learning for the leaders of tomorrow. She was on the cadre for co-developing the 2021 curriculum for African American/Black Studies for Henry County School Corporation. She also enjoys researching, presenting, and discussing hard topics dealing with African American Culture and race relations in America.-

1. How and when did you get  hooked on history?

I have always been a lover of history in some way, shape, form, or fashion, but I developed a passion for it when I was introduced to African American History while I attended Indiana State University for my undergrad degree. My very first professor Dr. Sandford Wright blew my mind within the first few weeks of class and I have not looked back since. I took a class every semester just because I loved what I was learning and ended up with an Associates in AAS by default. I had no plans on studying anything outside of the Business degree that I was pursuing, but that quickly changed when a topic that was foreign to me yet all that I was got handed to me in a class in my 20’s. It became an addiction, and I have yet to , nor do I desire to recover from it.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

History plays a part in all our lives, even when we are unaware. The stories that we are told about family members and nostalgic presentations that we hear at family gatherings are all history. I guess since it is personal or family history that we do not consider it so, but it is. So, to that I would say that it has played a role in my life my entire life. I never knew until I learned about African American History that my family history was pivotal in the development of this country. I became so passionate about African American History that I started teaching it, and I teach it daily. I do not know what I would do without it. To say that it plays an important role in my life would be an understatement. It is my life!

3. How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

As a high school teacher, who became a teacher as a second career I had no clue what subjects that I would be assigned to teach when I first started. I felt that I would go a totally different route. The opportunity arose to teach African American Studies and I jumped at it. It aligns with the U.S. class curriculum that I also teach and that affords me the opportunity to not only teach history daily but learn it. I learn something new daily and I love the fact that I am teaching a subject that is passionate to me. History permeates my life so much, that I can’t even do the fun or viral trending tiktoks because all I want to do is teach lessons. Once I master a lesson in minute snippets, I will be good LOL

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

It is critical, because truth is freeing, and offers directive for us on all levels. It affords us the opportunity to realize vantage points, power structures, political bias and objective /subjective views of events that have occurred in the country/world. We must study it to understand the cause and effect of events, and how they lead us to where we are now. It is said that when you know your past you are preventing yourself from repeating it and I feel that it does play a part in why we should know and study history. It allows us to evolve and progress as a species and elevate in understanding. When I started learning about AAS I heard of a term called Sankofa which simply means go back and get it”, or fully it is “a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, generally depicted as a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress.” That term reminded me of a type of coffee (Sanka), but just like some coffee drinkers who have to have a glass a day I have to have a lesson a day for myself and one to teach.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I do not truthfully know if I have an actual favorite period, because there are so many periods that bring me joy when I both study and teach them. I can say that the cause and affect aspect of history is amazing to me, because with all the variables that exist in our day to day lives each move creates a different outcome. In World history I enjoy learning about the establishing of various civilizations, The various power constructs, the creative or enlightenment periods of discovery. In U.S. I appreciate our own growth and development, the sectionalism and how it affects those folks in that region, based upon resources, climate, geography. African American I love the stories of tenacity, creativity in the face of adversity, and beauty. I love where we have been and can’t wait to see where we go next.

6.         How have you and your students coped with COVID?

This has been the most challenging time of teaching for me. It challenged every understanding that I had on ways to teach because none of what I previously knew was good enough for what the children needed. I hated having to beg and plead students to engage in class and getting no response or concern in a lot of them and/or parents. I did a lot of life lessons rolled into the curriculum lessons, because they needed it. I became a counselor to parents as well as students even though we were pressed for time. We had to become so flexible that we would be willing to flip and entire classroom from one of traditional standards to new wave. Technology was the master and we all were at its mercy, because there were many times where technology just did not feel like working as it should when it should. The procedural protocols that we had to put into place when we switched to hybrid created more problems and anxiety. For a person who usually does not suffer from it to becoming one who strongly considered getting medicated to control it. I told my students this would be the 1st year that I would have no clue who was really in my class, because I never saw faces. We could not demand the students to show faces online and in person it was against protocol. So, I say all of that to say COVID changed education as we all knew and loved it.

7. What advice would you give to beginning history teachers about making history education relevant for their students?

Always find a lesson in the lesson. Always make it relate to something that they can relate to. Create scenarios and ask them to carry them out forward in the future. Always direct their paths to discover the cause and effect, or how to analyze the lesson at hand. Do not stress so much on the exact dates of things but create an understanding of eras and conditions or mindsets in those eras to build a full comprehension of the time period, and then add the exact dates to all of that. Make comparisons to modern shows, songs, video games or trends so that they can relate it to something that they understand from their generation. Lastly make sure that they not only hear that you feel that history is fun, and you are passionate about it live it in front of them so that it might rub off onto them as well.

Friday, June 4, 2021

7 Questions With Author Ted Ehmann


Currently besides writing histories, Ted Ehmann conducts historical research on the prehistoric mound-building cultures that were in south Florida from 800 B.C. -1700 A.D.. In 2018 he founded and is now the president of the Charlotte Harbor Anthropological Society. The following year, he co-founded the Charlotte County Florida Historical Society. His more recent research has been on the history of phosphate mining in Florida . His book on phosphate mining history will  be published in 2021 and the history of Charlotte County, Florida in preparation of its centennial in 2021. He enjoys presenting his research and narratives to archaeological and history groups throughout Southwest Florida. Website

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

     Strange as it may seem, I got hooked on history beginning with a preoccupation in prehistory. Quite uncommon I know.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

The older I get, turn 72 in 11 days, the greater the role history plays.

  3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

     Currently researching, writing, publishing histories is my entire professional life owing to the major needs in the histories of Florida.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

The study of history is vitally linked to both identity, as well as beliefs.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

     It is now American history, all of it. Strange I hated it growing up.

6. Is there a common theme or thread that runs through your books?

     Yes, relevancy!. I will not write a history if it does not have relevancy today. Period.

7. Tell us about your most recent book. Are you currently working on a book?

     My most recently published book 1/11/21 is a complete history of Charlotte County FL, where I live. What drove the writing of this history were themes/cultural characteristics early in the county’s history 1870’s-1880s that are very much alive today. History does “repeat itself”.
     My most current book in production is the complete history of phosphate mining in Florida.
     Several in process. I am three-quarters through a history of Fort Ogden, FL