Using his passion for history, History Subject Expert Teacher and College Counselor Dr. Hight wants to teach students to appreciate and understand history. He’s preparing his students for college and beyond by giving them, among other skills, the ability to analyze and synthesize information. As a published author, in his elective Narrative Arts, Dr. Hight guides students to produce their own narrative work in the form of their choosing—novel, play, poems, etc.
We sat down with Dr. Hight to learn about teaching and advising high school students, his passion for creative writing, and the surprising nature of history! Read his full bio here.
What do you like most about teaching history? What about narrative arts?
I like surprising students, and history is full of surprises. I really enjoy looking at parts of history that seem very familiar (westward expansion in the United States, for example) and reframing it as something different that fits into the broader sweep of history (i.e. westward expansion = imperialism).
I also love telling stories! Great stories are what got me hooked on history. Teaching students how to shape their own stories is what I love about narrative arts.
What’s your favorite topic to teach and why?
The French Revolution. It’s big and messy and confusing. It features stirring triumphs and optimism, paired with brutality and terror. It’s the moment when we enter a new political age when people fight over ideology instead of just power.
What’s a favorite project that your students enjoy?
I’ll stick with the French Revolution for this question as well. In European history, we do a weeklong simulation of the revolution, where students play the roles of actual members of the National Assembly (Robespierre, Lafayette, etc.). They each have an agenda, which they try to get passed into law. They write newspaper articles and give speeches to rally support and get more votes. Occasionally, the people invade the Assembly and ruin all their plans. It’s fun!
What’s the best part about teaching high school students?
They are ready to do address some pretty complex issues. We can discuss changing regimes of identity or the growing use of micro-discipline and they go right along with it. They are ready to begin reading real academic texts that make complex arguments.
What makes BASIS Independent McLean a unique school?
We do a lot of things well, but I’ll limit myself to history and creative writing. In history, I focus a lot (increasingly so as students get older) on efficiently reading and understanding academic texts. I want my students to be able to digest a history book in three hours by the time they graduate. This ability to quickly break down what a source is arguing and how it makes that argument is a hugely useful skill in college and grad school, even in future careers, and it’s not one that’s usually taught.
We also put a heavy emphasis on the practice of writing—not just how you structure an essay, but learning the process of brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and editing.
You’re a college counselor too. Why take on the dual role of teacher and college counselor?
Before teaching here, I spent some time as an independent college counselor. I especially enjoy helping students with essays and interview prep, as well as helping them think strategically about which schools to apply to. It is work I was happy to continue at BASIS Independent McLean.
What is your college counseling philosophy?
There are two parts of college counseling: building a resume and the application process. I focus a lot on building the resume. In particular, I help students understand the importance of teacher recommendations (and how to get good ones) and extracurricular activities. The goal with any application is to tell a story about the applicant. At BASIS Independent McLean, we start building that story early on by helping create opportunities for students to explore their interests.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at school?
I spend as much time as possible with my three girls: Ellie, Hope, and Cora. When I’m not hanging with my family, I write. I just finished my latest novel, and I am currently working with a producer on a project for Netflix.
Dr. Hight clearly loves teaching history and creative writing, as well as guiding students to the right college. We’re so glad to have him at BASIS Independent McLean!