December 10, 2014//
Meet LaGuana Gray. The UTSA assistant professor wants her students to know about American history and feel that it's part of who they are.
I want my students to feel that they are part of the historical record.”
– LaGuana Gray
As an undergraduate psychology major, her minor in African American studies piqued her interest in history. Her favorite periods are the modern civil rights era of the 1960s and the progressive era from 1900 to 1914, times with movements resulting in more inclusion in the United States.
Gray says UTSA students are open and eager to learn about history, and that makes teaching exciting. Many of her students are non-traditional, such as military and older students.
"I consider them my primary sources," she said. "They bring perspectives to the classroom that younger students may not have heard. If everyone is engaged and you make them feel they have something to share, they will open up and be committed to building a strong classroom community."
With a dual appointment in the Department of History and the Honors College, Gray loves the working environment and has lots of support from both departments.
"Dr. Gray is a fantastic teacher," said Ann Eisenberg, associate dean of the Honors College and professor of psychology. "Since coming to UTSA in 2008, she has done a remarkable job of introducing concepts regarding race as a social construction and privilege."
Gray brings another perspective to classroom discussion with stories from her new book, "We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry."
Published by Louisiana State University Press, the book is an oral history mostly from women and a business history of the poultry processing industry in El Dorado, Ark., and along the Arkansas-Louisiana border.
"It is the story of the lives and paid and unpaid labor of a particular group of black women," said Gray. "The stories describe their work and their roles in schools, churches and as mothers. It has meaning to me because my mother was a poultry line worker, and I grew up around it. I love to share these stories because many of the students identify with people from a working class background."
Gray teaches "American History Since 1865" and "American History from 1945 to the Present." When her classes are particularly engaged in discussion, she might not get as far as she would like in the lesson plan, but it's worth it to see the students' involvement.
"I want my students to feel that they are part of the historical record," said Gray. "I want them to understand that the things they do and the beliefs they have will have an impact on our country."
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