UCF Professor of History Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernández has been appointed to the board of the National Council for History Education (NCHE). Since 1990, the NCHE has worked to promote excellence in K-12 and college-level history education. The organization supports the teaching of history through lobbying, sponsoring collaborations and workshops between teachers and professors, and by producing teaching materials and history education guidelines.
As a board member, Martínez-Fernández plans to forward initiatives designed to increase meaningful interaction between K-12 teachers and history professors. “There is a disconnect,” Martínez-Fernández notes. “Teachers and students have not worked together to prepare for what is important at the college level and teachers are usually under pressure to teach what is dictated from above, to emphasize certain topics.”
He points to the common focus in history classrooms on the memorization of names and dates, which he feels does not afford students the necessary intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills or ability to discern between different kinds of sources required in college. “My sense is that most school systems overemphasize what is in the tests and not the kinds of skills and knowledge necessary in college.” Martínez-Fernández hopes to put teachers and professors in closer dialogue to ensure a greater degree of coordination in the ways students are prepared for college-level history.
Other points of concern are student reading habits and techniques. Martínez-Fernández feels students are often encouraged to read only to recover facts. He feels it is more important for students to engage authors’ over-arching arguments and reasons for writing. Martínez-Fernández also plans to be an advocate for K-12 teachers. “They’re underestimated,” he notes, “unfortunately there are people who are hostile to teachers.” He believes the profession should be “elevated,” and that he would like ordinary people to gain a more detailed sense of the limitations, struggles, and challenges teachers often experience.
When asked how his appointment might influence his work at UCF, Martínez-Fernández notes the many lessons he learned while serving on the Board of Trustees of the College Board prior to being invited to join the NCHE and predicts an experience along similar lines. “Working with students with disabilities, for instance, you learn a lot of things, you learn how to be an advocate.” He also predicts his membership on the board will bring him into contact with new innovative pedagogical materials and techniques. “Complex lesson modules, a variety of class exercises; I am a strong believer in those kinds of materials.”
And above all else, he notes, he hopes to empower teachers and students. “I want to be a voice for teachers at the national level, to promote innovative approaches and materials, and to help more students and teachers.”