Lisa Land Cooper has focused on history in one way or another for at least 42 years. At the age of nineteen as a college student, she spent some time working in the Clerk of the Superior Court’s office in Cherokee County, Georgia recording deeds. This was followed by working as a paralegal for several years researching case law and real estate chains of title. In the mid-1990s she began teaching American History to fourth and fifth graders and soon earned her Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.. She shifted again in 2010, researching and writing a local history column for her local newspaper, the Douglas County Sentinel which has led to two published books focusing on the history of Douglas County and a third with a selection of #TrueTales from around the state of Georgia. During this time, she also researched and designed several online courses of study for students enrolled in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland. Currently, she is focusing all of her time on future book projects, her social media platforms, and her website where she tries to bring history to a 21st century audience. (Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089470731570 , Website https://lisalandcooper.com/ )
1. How and when did you get hooked on history?
I was hooked on history as a young girl listening to family stories told by my grandfathers and my mother. They would tell me about how things were when they were growing up and what they experienced as national, state, and local events happened all around them. My mother told my sister and I about growing up in a small town during the Great Depression. I was able to take these family stories and make connections with the history I was exposed to as a student.
2. What role does history play, or has it played in your personal life?
My love of history has consumed me since I was a young girl. My children like to joke that I can find the history of a button, and I probably could cobble a few sentences together after a little research. I research history, I write about history, and I post about history on social media.
3, How does history play a part of your professional life/career?
History has played an important role in everything I have done professionally from working as a paralegal researching case law and chains of title, introducing a full course of American history in the classroom to fourth and fifth grade students, as a researcher helping individual clients as well as municipalities with various projects, and as an author with my books, social media posts, and my former newspaper column with the Douglas County Sentinel.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
I could write at great length on the importance of history, but I’ll stick to the top four reasons. The first being that history has value to our society. Thousands of people throughout history have gone to great lengths to record history through newspapers, diaries, journals, saved letters, family Bibles, and oral traditions. It is believed that Aborigines of Australia managed to hang onto their history for 40,000 years by word of mouth.
Second, history is the narrative of mankind. It provides answers as to how people lived as well as provides for us the roots to certain ideas concerning laws, customs, and political ideas.
The third reason why history is important is it teaches a wide range of material. History is not a litany of dead people, places, and dates. History content has links to science and the arts. These links provide relevance for students or the adults who read my meager little offerings. History assists them to take small chunks of history squares and weave them into a knowledge quilt.
Finally, history is important because when presented properly it lends itself to critical analysis. Even young students can review a series of primary and secondary resources and independently determine what happened during an event and why. In 1988 the Bradley Commission Report on History in the Schools stated, “…history is the only avenue we have to reach an understanding of ourselves and our society. Without such understanding the two foremost aims of American education will not be achieved---the preparation of all our people for private lives of personal integrity and fulfillment, and their preparation for public life as democratic citizens.”
I strongly identify with a character in the Kingsley Amis novel, Lucky Jim, who works in the history department of a fictitious English university when he answers the department telephone by stating, “History speaking!” We are all history every minute of every day. We participate in the history of our families, we add to the history of the corporations and businesses we serve each day at work, and we participate in history as we vote, compose a letter to our congressman or a newspaper editor or attend a demonstration or memorial.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
My favorite period of history is whatever I’m currently researching or writing, but I’m always drawn to the American Revolution, Founding Fathers, and Constitutional history. I consider The Federalist Papers as light reading, but sadly have found myself too busy to enjoy reading history for just enjoyment over the last few years.
6. How did you become a history blogger and how did “The Story Behind the History” come about?
I began writing online at a blog I titled History Is Elementary under the screen name ElementaryHistoryTeacher in 2006 where I shared the day-to-day challenges of meeting social studies standards, classroom discipline, teaching techniques, and history content.
I kept the project from my family and from my school’s administration though I steadily gained a following. When the newspaper, USA Today, featured me and others in an article regarding teachers who blogged the secret was out to much acclaim. My readers tripled overnight, and plans were to produce a line of curriculum, etc.
I never got around to that (but still plan to) due to health concerns that caused me to leave the classroom. While recovering in 2010 I began researching and writing a local history column for the Douglas County Sentinel that lasted until 2021 along with my website where I still publish articles today.
The tagline I use at my website, The stories behind the history, harkens back to the stories my family members told me that hooked me in and sparked the desire to learn more. I strongly believe that if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. I love telling the story behind the story—we don’t simply arrive at a point in history by magic. There is always a backstory – a web of various other stories that dovetail and fit in many ways depending on a given point of view. There are many reasons why I love to tell the story, and the main one being I’m just compelled to do it.
7. What do you hope your followers and readers take away from your stories?
My hope for the take-away is that my readers have a better appreciation of their place in our world, our country, and their local surroundings. I hope they take away a feeling of being entertained for a few minutes and don’t realize they might have learned something or that their point of view might have shifted a bit. The main take away I wish for is that my writing encourages readers to search out more about the story.