Teaching the past, impacting the future

One local woman has two main passions — giving back to her community and spreading her knowledge of history.

Brea Quellhorst, of Wapakoneta, has dedicated her career to finding imaginative ways to prove how her favorite subject is not the “boring” stereotype many misunderstand it to be.

“I want them to see how to make history fun,” Quellhorst said. “I want them to see how their lives are affected right now by what happened in the past.”

Quellhorst said it’s not only students who see history as “all dates and memorization,” and she has taken it on herself to get out into the community to show what knowledge of the past has to offer.

“That’s why I’m doing this — trying to get my community picking any area of history — any of it — you can make it interesting,” Quellhorst said. “It will surprise you what you can learn when you sit down and you’re willing to open up your mind to learn.”

Recently, Quellhorst gave a speech to the Wapakoneta Optimist Club about the 1800 New York City tenements. Also, she gave a speech to the Wapakoneta Irving Club on the Great Depression.

She said she also visits the historical society frequently, the most recent involving Civil War photography.

“It all comes back — one big circle — and I want to educate my community on that,” Quellhorst said.

However, Quellhorst said it is not simply stating facts and dates.

“You’ve got to find the stories behind it because that’s what history is — history is an interpretation,” Quellhorst said. “It’s a drama, it’s experience, it’s emotions. It’s not just dates.”

After graduating from Bluffton University with an AYA Social Studies degree, Quellhorst is now working as a substitute teacher for local school districts in grades 7-12. Quellhorst said she has become even more driven to find solutions to disinterest and dropping history grades.

“You have your standards by the state of Ohio, but you take it and disect it,” Quellhorst said. “You do pictures, you do background stories, you do video clips — you bring in extra, outside things. You do hands-on activities.”

Quellhorst said it is important for students to learn outside of a textbook, especially since there are multiple types of learners who need various kinds of learning strategies.

“I remember my first big “A ha!” moment was in sixth grade, ancient Egyptian section — I remember making sarcophagus out of paper and cardboard boxes,” Quellhorst said. “You need to get hands-on.”

However, the most important aspect of learning is relating the material to the learner’s interests.

“No matter what story you pick out in history, you can always relate it back to three things: responsibility, education and learning from our past and fixing the mistakes,” Quellhorst said.

Quellhorst said she is concerned about the dwindling interest in history in the school system and society. She said many common issues in today’s society have repeated throughout history, and that is a problem.

“It’s how civilizations progress — the architecture, the technology — it’s all from learning from our past,” Quellhorst said. “I have a fear that the way we’re teaching is making our kids not want to dive in and explore, and if you have people that don’t want to learn from our past, what’s going to be our future?”

This is why, Quellhorst said, she is dedicated to becoming a teacher in Wapakoneta.

“I’m going to give to my community 100 percent,” Quellhorst said. “I’m never going to stop striving to see better achievements.

You need to be able to say OK, we’re progressing as a whole, we’re progressing as a community. I’ll never stop loving this.”