AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
Peter A. Porter Jr. is a high school history teacher at Montville Township High School as well as an adjunct history professor at Seton Hall University. He lives in West Orange, New Jersey, and has been a member of the AHA since 1997.
Alma mater/s: BA, Seton Hall University; MA, Rutgers University
Fields of interest: 19th-century US and European history (teaching), Jacksonian Era (research).
When did you first develop an interest in history?
I have loved history from a very early age, but in the fifth grade my teacher gave me a high school history text and I read the whole book over Christmas break. You could say the die was cast then.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am continuing work on a research project involving Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet.” However most of my time is being spent on teaching issues.
Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
Yes, I graduated with a degree in world history, but have found myself more interested in the US lately, especially in research. My teaching has been divided between both so I have kept up learning in both areas.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
For those interested in modern Europe I highly recommend Tony Jundt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. I selected it to bone up on modern Europe for my classes and found it fascinating. Have also found H. W. Brand’s work, American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900, to have been helpful and a stimulating read. The History Channel program The Men Who Built America was inspired by Brands book. It really appeals to students in my survey course and was a very enjoyable viewing.
What do you value most about the history profession?
The people of history have always fascinated me. I believe it is people who drive history and the insights they provide us through the experiences of their lives can help us better understand our own world by understanding what is behind an idea or event and how it was influenced by past events.
Why did you join the AHA?
A friend while I was first in grad school strongly encouraged me to go to the AHA annual meeting in NYC that year. She said of all the historical associations it was the AHA that was most important and committed to the betterment of the profession. I joined and have found the experience incredibly rewarding in the people I have met and interacted with over the years. The knowledge I have gained in sitting in sessions with some of the best and brightest minds in the field is beyond measure.
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about teaching, I love to teach and am saddened by the struggles I see teachers going through, throughout the country today.
Any final thoughts?
I will always be incredibly grateful for the opportunity the members of the AHA gave me to serve them on the executive board. It has been the experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for the world. Special thanks to all my colleagues on the Council who have tolerated my bursts of passion on issues put before us that involve teachers.