Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with history teacher Nick Graham


Photo credit: Anna Brodsky

Graham stands in front of a world map in his classroom. Graham previously taught in England.

Laughter fills the classroom V9 as London-native and Archer high school history teacher Nick Graham uses British slang and Bruce Springsteen references to explain the Renaissance to his tenth grade students.

Graham was a long-term substitute for history teacher Margaret Shirk last year and joined the permanent faculty this year. The Oracle sat down with Graham to ask him questions about his background and teaching career.

Why did you become a teacher?

Nick Graham [NG]: The subject of history is so important in making the world right. I know it sounds like a cliche; it is a cliche, but cliches have a lot of truth in them. If you fail to understand the past, you are going to go on repeating the errors of the past. I know that sounds a bit pious, but I firmly do believe that if you’re going to do something with your life, do something that helps the cause of humanity. I honestly believe [in] telling kids about where we’ve gone wrong in the past and helping them understand that future if they’re the ones that are going to go on to make a better world. It sounds personal, but I think that’s really why I do it. I absolutely love history, and the opportunity to stand and talk to kids about history is the best way to spend my time and make a living.

Why did you move to the U.S.?

NG: Because my wife is from Los Angeles, and also because I grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen records, so this was always a country in my mind.

What was your favorite hobby as a child?

NG: Football [soccer]. 

What was your prior experience in teaching before Archer?

NG: I taught at an all-girls school which was what we call in England a comprehensive school. So, it had mixed ability. I had girls who were trained for the Oxbridge entry exam, which are the entries for Oxford or Cambridge. Then, I had girls that came from extremely tough backgrounds — so that is what a comprehensive school is. At the other school that I worked at, I was the head of the [history] department. It was a school very similar to this one, only for boys. It was an independent school with very high expectations on staff, faculty and the kids. It was a great time and they were cracking lads. They were absolutely brilliant to teach, like Archer girls. They were enthusiastic; they were interesting and fun.

Do you prefer Los Angeles or London?

NG: I’m going to take the diplomatic route here and say I don’t have a preference, because when I’m in one [country], I’m missing the other. In one way, it’s like comparing apples with oranges. But in another way, you’re talking about two of the world’s greatest cities that both have a lot going for them.

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Margaret Shirk as the History Department Chair. Shirk is a history teacher.