Teaching Difficult History: How Our Past Informs Our Present

Christonya Brown

Christonya Brown knew in fifth grade she would be a teacher, and her passion continued through college. For the past 26 years, Christonya has worked in Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She began as a GED tutor and a library assistant for Norfolk Public Schools. Upon graduation from Old Dominion University, she began her classroom experience teaching freshmen Ancient World History. After surviving a summer of history, heat, and hormonal teenagers, she spent the next seven years teaching middle school history and social science: US History, Geography, Civics, and Economics. Within that time period, Ms. Brown was promoted to Department Chair leading the history department and supervising history and social science teachers. In 2003, Brown moved to the Central Office as the division teacher specialist, training teachers across division and by 2006, she was promoted to Senior Coordinator for History and Social Science for Norfolk Public Schools. In 2013, Ms. Brown moved to the Virginia Department of Education to take on the job of Coordinator for History and Social Science. Today, she is responsible for history and social science education, training, and programming for the students, teachers, parents, and communities of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Dr. Jeff Eargle

Dr. Jeff Eargle is an Assistant Clinical Professor in Secondary Humanities Education at the University of South Carolina. In this position he works with preservice teachers in all four core content areas – ELA, social studies, math, and science. Dr. Eargle’s work in Holocaust Education ranges from teaching a year-long Holocaust course at the high school level, co-facilitating a graduate level course on teaching the Holocaust, and serving on the Teacher Advisory Committee for the Sout Carolina Council on the Holocaust. He has conducted professional development for teachers at the local, state, and national levels. A former Peace Corps Volunteer in Poland, Dr. Eargle was a high school social studies teacher in South Carolina public school system where he taught all levels of students in both rural and suburban contexts. Dr. Eargle was a finalist for South Carolina Teacher of the Year in 2011 and was recognized in 2018 for Excellence in Teaching Civil Rights and Civil Liberties by the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies. Immediately prior to joining the faculty at USC, Dr. Eargle was the K12 Social Studies Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Education.

Elizabeth Lodal

Elizabeth Vickrey Lodal was appointed to the Board of Education for a four year term in 2015 by Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Mrs. Lodal’s almost forty year career in public education included teaching history and English and Serving as Principal of The Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, McLean High School, Langston Middle School, and Joyce Kilmer Middle School, all in Fairfax County.

Mrs. Lodal, who holds a B.A. degree from Rice University and a M.A. degree from The George Washington University, resides in Fairfax County with her husband Jan M. Lodal. They have two children and three grandchildren.


Dr. Maia Sheppard

Maia Sheppard is Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy with a focus in Social Studies Education, and Coordinator of the Secondary Education Program at the George Washington University. Dr. Sheppard’s research focuses on the difficult nature of teaching and learning about the past and examines the role of emotions in social studies education.


As a teacher educator, Dr. Sheppard works to develop pre-service teachers’ skills in community-engaged teaching and the professional capacity to advocate for educational approaches that best serve their students’ needs.


Prior to coming to GW, Dr. Sheppard was the founding social studies teacher at a school for immigrants and refugees in the Bronx, taught ESL in Namibia with the Peace Corps, and supported teachers and schools in a range of contexts, from Zambia to Minnesota.

Dr. Jeremy Stoddard

Dr. Jeremy D. Stoddard is an Associate Professor and Director of the Secondary Education Program in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he teaches courses in social studies pedagogical methods and graduate courses in media and democratic education. He was formerly Professor of Education and an associated faculty member in Film and Media Studies at the College of William & Mary. His research explores the role of media in teaching and learning democratic education, with a particular focus on teaching difficult historical and controversial contemporary issues. In addition to articles published in research and practice journals, he is also co-author of Teaching History with Film and Teaching History with Museums (Routledge) and co-editor of Teaching Difficult History Through Film (Routledge, 2017).

Dr. Charles Syndor

A highly respected historian of the Holocaust and World War II, Dr. Charles W. Sydnor Jr. provided the United States Department of Justice and its Office of Special Investigations with expert testimony in numerous court cases from 1981-2006 involving former SS concentration camp guards and Nazi death camp collaborators. As an expert witness, he helped revoke the citizenship of 23 Nazi war criminals living in the US, most notably, Ukrainian guard John Demjanjuk, who was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews at the Sobibór extermination camp. An author, former college president and public television station executive, Dr. Sydnor also served as the Virginia Holocaust Museum’s Executive Director from 2013-2015, and remains on staff as its Senior Historian. He is currently working on a biography of Nazi mastermind, Reinhard Heydrich.

Elbert Watson

Elbert Watson has been a dance instructor at Norfolk Academy for over 25 years, creating a dance curriculum that spans all dance genres from ballet to musical theater. During his professional career, Mr. Watson was a principal dancer with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Staats Theater of Kassel Germany, The Pearl Primus Earth Theater, and the Joan Miller Dance Players. He is the founder of the Elbert Watson Dance Company, which recently performed a concert for the 100th Anniversary of Norfolk Attucks Theater.