Theresa Jach is a professor at Houston Community College, at the Katy Campus. She lives in Richmond, Texas, and has been a member since 2009.
Twitter handle: @theresaraePhD
Alma maters: BA (history and English), Alma College; MA and PhD (US history), University of Houston
Fields of interest: female convicts, prisons, prison farms in Texas, convict leasing, New South, Progressive Era
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? After my undergraduate degree, I worked for many years in sales and marketing. I went to graduate school because I always loved history, and was in a position to go back to school. I worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston. Shortly after I completed my MA, I taught a class at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. This was the first class I taught and I loved it. I knew that teaching and interacting with students was my career goal.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? I love working at Houston Community College because of the students and faculty. We have such a diverse student body—people from all over the world, different ages, different socio-economic backgrounds, different reasons for attending college—this makes for an exciting and challenging classroom. I love that my classes are small enough for me to get to know students by name. I often see them after they leave HCC and they are always surprised I remember them. My colleagues in the history department are engaged and active scholars, as well as dedicated teachers.
What projects are you currently working on? I recently completed a co-edited volume, Incarcerated Women: A History of Struggles, Oppression, and Resistance in American Prisons, with Erica Hayden (Trevecca Nazarene Univ.). I continue to work on the history of black women convicts in Texas.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? Teaching the survey courses has certainly opened up new areas of interest to me. The War of 1812 fascinates me, particularly the Native American side of it. While doing genealogy research for my father, I discovered that one of my ancestors was a prisoner of war after the surrender of Ft. Detroit.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? I was looking for some information about one of my Puritan ancestors and found a letter in the Special Collections at the Boston Public Library. All of the adult men in Braintree, Massachusetts, wrote to King Charles I in 1638 complaining about what a horrible liar my ancestor was and to not believe anything he wrote regarding land he claimed a right to. I would love to find the letter he wrote to the King. I enjoy telling my students that his fellow colonists despised my ancestor.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? One of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time is The Pruitt-Igoe Myth by Chad Freidrichs. I use this in my African American history course, and it is very powerful for students.
What do you value most about the history discipline? I love learning about the past and helping my students fall in love with history. But more importantly for my students, it develops critical thinking skills they need to succeed.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? The annual meeting gives me the opportunity to learn what other scholars are working on and find ways to enhance my classroom teaching. I always come back from the meeting with new ideas and great additions to the classroom.
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.