She'll Go Down In History

"One of my favorite stories to tell students was when I was in Damascus, Syria in 2001. The day of September 11, my landlord, his wife, and kids came up to my room and offered their condolences and were so sorry for America's loss. Everyone--frie...

by Keely Axler
Ms. Bartholdt

"One of my favorite stories to tell students was when I was in Damascus, Syria in 2001. The day of September 11, my landlord, his wife, and kids came up to my room and offered their condolences and were so sorry for America's loss. Everyone--friends, students, teachers, even the mailman--was so concerned and caring. In fact, I still have a box of little gifts from that time," said Ms. Bartholdt. "It upsets me that our media portrays the entire Arab world as being terrorists. The people I met were very concerned and compassionate and it would never ever occur to them to do something like that."

Living in the Middle East for two years, AP and regular World History teacher Ms. Bartholdt witnessed many sights, but nothing remotely like the violence and hate that Americans often associate the area with today. "Damascus was peaceful, and an incredibly safe place to be. The people were very friendly, and it was a relatively small but thriving Christian community with a mix of cultures and religions," said Ms. Bartholdt.

She taught at the Damascus Community School, an American Embassy school, where over forty nationalities were represented. "I loved looking out of my classroom window and seeing all the different types of people. Diversity is the reason I like teaching overseas," she said.

Diversity in culture, maybe, but Ms. Bartholdt acknowledges that there is really little fundamental difference among everyone. "It became apparent that we're all the same everywhere. I've noticed it in all the different kids that I've taught: they listen to the same music, same movies, they all have the same dreams, like going to college, they all want to find love . . . We all want what's best for our families, and I can honestly say the majority of people want peace. You can learn things from different cultures, but at the core, they're the same."

Ms. Bartholdt claims that from an early age she had a passion for history, especially ancient, reading all the National Geographic magazines she could get her hands on. However, one major influence in the development of such a lifelong obsession was her ethnicity. "My parents were both German, and I was raised speaking the language. So I never really felt one hundred percent American. We were different, so it was cool to read about different places," she said.


In her classes, Ms. Bartholdt tries to emphasize the significance of interpreting history to her students each and every day. "It's essential to know that it's all connected--the past to the present. If you understand how, you can make more sense of the present. History does repeat itself, and it's important to understand who you are, where you are in the world, where you came from."

Senior Jon Anderson said, "AP World was my favorite class because Ms. Bartholdt was at the helm. She gave real life examples of history, for example she'd talk about how she was in Egypt and her own perceptions of the country, and she'd also explain how the history of a country affected its modern day society and politics."

"In AP World I learned so much more than I thought I could in that amount of time. I found her class very interesting and how she presented it made me want to find out more," agreed senior Richard Coffin.

When she's not traveling the world or teaching a class, Ms. Bartholdt enjoys taking full advantage of Duluth through a variety of outdoor activities. "I like to be outside, be it biking, kayaking, or hiking," she said. She can be often be found doing the latter with Mrs. Zobel or her German Shepherd Tango, trekking throughout the region's massive network of trails. She also loves a good historical fiction novel, perhaps a travel memoir--anything that has the ability to vicariously transport her back to an exhilarating time and place; anything that reminds her of her foreign journeys.

"I loved it out there; that's why I'm going back," she said. As of the spring of 2009, Ms. Bartholdt accepted a position teaching American history at the American International School of Lusaka in the capital city of Zambia.

"I've done my research and it's a great, small school in a stable country. The only thing I'm worried about is driving on the wrong side (left) of the road," she joked. She's always wanted to vacation on the Indian Ocean or hike in Tanzania, but she's most excited to safari in the best game parks in Africa. "I want to see real, live elephants," she said with a smile.

Aside from her safaris, Ms. Bartholdt is looking forward to being a minority living in a culture she's never experienced before. "I'm excited to find out about another part of the world," she said.

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