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John Hopper was awarded the Beveridge Family Teaching Award.

 

Local Dual-Enrollment Instructor and Historian Wins Prestigious Teaching Award

LAMAR, CO – John Hopper, teacher and dean of students at Granada Public Schools and dual-enrollment instructor for Lamar Community College (LCC), has been awarded the Beveridge Family Teaching Prize by the American Historical Association (AHA).

This biennial prize is AHA’s most prestigious honor for a high school instructor, and was announced January 3 at the AHA Annual Meeting in New York City.

 

“I have been blessed with many great students over the years and love teaching in Southeast Colorado,” said Hopper. “The support that I have received over the years has made my teaching and life a very rewarding experience. I would not trade my occupation with any other nor would I wish to teach anywhere else but here.”

Hopper’s nominators described the transformative impact he has had on his students and community throughout his 28 years at Granada. They attested to his innovative and dynamic teaching, including his use of distance learning to include students from remote rural areas. Most impressively, Hopper has guided students for more than two decades in the award-winning work of unearthing, preserving and sharing the history of the Amache Japanese Internment Camp in Granada.

“Mr. Hopper’s award is well-deserved,” said Dr. Annessa Stagner-Stulp, LCC Dean of Academic Services and one of Hopper’s nominators. “He is daily giving students academic opportunities that rival the very best schools in the state and nation. His work speaks to the kind of innovative teaching taking place right here within our K-12 schools and community college in southeastern Colorado.”

In addition to Dr. Stagner-Stulp, Hopper’s nominators include LCC History Faculty Kelly Emick and Vice President of Academic and Student Services Dr. Lisa Schlotterhausen, as well as several other professional historians and past students throughout the United States.

Over 20 years ago, Hopper formed the Amache Preservation Society with his high school students with the intention to create a multi-generational student organization that would unearth the history of the Amache Japanese Internment Camp, located in Granada, Colorado.

From 1942 until 1945, the site was one of 10 camps created to intern Japanese, most of whom were American citizens. When Hopper and his students began their work, the site was marked by nothing more than a road sign, unkempt dirt roads and barely visible concrete foundations. Today the Granada site is one of the best-preserved camps, complete with a museum and archive, research center, cemetery, restored water tower, guard tower, and 11-F Rec building.

To accomplish all of this, Hopper has led his students to fundraise through grant writing and private donations. Their activities have been largely funded by the Japanese internees and their families, indicating the immense meaning of this work to those who were once interned.

Hopper’s work to preserve the historical site is impressive, understanding the depth and sophistication of work involved, and that such work is truly led by high-school students. The Museum, for example, has grown to be one of the largest private collections of interment materials in existence, and students engage in growing and curating this collection as they gain new artifacts on a monthly basis. The students also maintain the Amache Research Center as well as the cemetery and other buildings on the property.

In addition to this work, Hopper assists students in producing a biannual Amache Newsletter, written by students to update subscribers on progress at Amache, reviews of relevant films and scholarly books, and state and federal policy updates related to site preservation. Similarly students maintain a sophisticated and impressive website, complete with a site map and audio tour. Students record oral histories of people and families affected by incarceration, and help in organizing an annual pilgrimage for former internees and their families. Most impressively, students partner with University of Denver archeologist Bonnie Clark each summer for archeological digs on the Camp Amache site.

Hopper brings history to life for his students, not only involving them in the work of preserving history, but also in moving beyond a national narrative of interment and preservation. He arranges for students to travel to Japan to live with host families. In Japan, the students give presentations on their work and interact with high school and college students as well as Japanese organizations. He enables them to explore the ways in which “national” policies also take on international meanings.

His approach to this work is particularly attentive to evolving scholarly conversations surrounding Japanese internment and the politics of memory, which shifted from a national narrative depicting internments as an unfortunate but necessary wartime sacrifice to affective communities sharing their own stories and experience. Students have since played a central role in this recovery work to ally with affected communities to fill gaps in the archives, informing broader scholarly trends and the rise of ethnic studies.

Echoing these trends, Hopper insists that students and affected communities play a leading role in the work of Amache preservation. In his own experiences in working with students and community members, he humbly describes how he learned to step aside as he helped facilitate the town of Granada’s collective decision to place full control of the history in the Sensei and Yonsei descendants who work hand in hand with students.

Hopper provides students a rare opportunity to engage in history in deep and meaningful ways. He further utilizes distance learning to expand this opportunity to students throughout southeastern Colorado. Yet the impact of his students’ work extends even further to all of those who experience Camp Amache.

Filed Under: City of GranadaCity of LamarCollegeEducationEventsFeaturedMedia ReleaseSchoolTourism

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