GHC Nominates Steve Blankenship for BOR Award
Georgia Highlands College has nominated Dr. Steve Blankenship, assistant professor of history, for the Board of Regents Teaching Excellence award, which is bestowed annually at a January gala held in Atlanta. Each of the 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia nominates a faculty member for this prestigious award. Nominations are based on classroom observations, student evaluations and the recommendation of peers. Blankenship stood out because of the way he makes history relevant to the present. Gone are rote memory tests that require the recall of a long series of important dates. Instead, he creates a class of interactive learning where students are required to think critically about the subject matter.
That kind of thinking means approaching a subject from more than one perspective. For example, Blankenship’s lesson about the Crusades, a piece of history that remains remote to Westerners, includes the Islamic perspective about them. Muslims still honor Saladin, the Kurdish Sunni Muslim and sultan of Egypt who led the resistance to the Crusades, ultimately taking back Jerusalem. Much more recently, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein repeatedly reminded his various audiences that he was from Tikrit, the birthplace of Saladin. Osama bin Laden also referred to Saladin in his video exhortations to violence following September 11. Hussein and bin Laden are both well known to all Americans who lived through the trauma of that black September day. In pulling into his class today’s news makers, Blankenship ties our culture to the past in a way that demonstrates to students how important historical events can be in shaping the present and future.
In American history, he describes the difference between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, a difference that launched our political parties. Today’s America still holds the Hamilton/Jefferson debate about the role of government in the lives of its citizens.
Blankenship also incorporates geography into his lessons. “Students can’t really understand the origins of the Second World War if they don’t know the location of Poland. Geographic illiteracy makes the study of history futile,” he said.
Blankenship came to Georgia Highlands in 2005 as a history instructor, and became assistant professor in 2008. He teaches at the Cartersville campus. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Arts in history from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of North Florida.