Kay, Alan N. 1965-
KAY, Alan N. 1965-
PERSONAL: Born October 12, 1965; married Heidi Kay; children: Joshua, Rachel, Jaime. Education: Brandeis University, B.A. (history; cum laude), 1987; University of Massachusetts, M.Ed., 1989. Hobbies and other interests: Adult hockey, biking, coaching youth hockey.
ADDRESSES: Home—5471 Stallion Lake Dr., Palm Harbor, FL 34685. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Lake Taylor Middle School, Norfolk, VA, civics teacher, 1989-92; Booker T. Washington High School, Norfolk, history teacher, 1992-93; Horace Mann Jr. High School, Brandon, FL, history teacher, 1993-94; King High International Baccalaureate School, Tampa, FL, advanced history teacher, 1994-97; Dunedin High School, Dunedin, FL, social studies teacher, 1997—. Media Projects, Inc., consultant, 1993; Hillsborough, FL, History Day coordinator, 1995-97; Pinellas County, FL, History Day coordinator, 1997—; presenter of workshops.
AWARDS, HONORS: Florida History Fair Teacher of the Year, and National History Day National Teacher of the Year finalist, both 2001; Daughters of the American Revolution, Florida Teacher of the Year award, and United States Teacher of the Year, both 2002.
"YOUNG HEROES OF HISTORY" SERIES
Send 'Em South, White Mane Publishing Company (Shippensburg, PA), 2000.
On the Trail of John Brown's Body, White Mane Publishing Company (Shippensburg, PA), 2001.
Off to Fight, White Mane Publishing Company (Shippensburg, PA), 2002.
Nowhere to Turn, White Mane Publishing Company (Shippensburg, PA), 2002.
No Girls Allowed, White Mane Publishing Company (Shippensburg, PA), 2003.
Author of classroom curriculum for grades 7-12.
WORK IN PROGRESS: More books in the "Young Heroes of History" series.
SIDELIGHTS: After ten years of writing, revising, and researching—often visiting the historical sites involved—award-winning history teacher Alan N. Kay wrote his first historical work, Jamestown Journey, a short story published in 1992. While working as a history teacher, Kay wrote during his lunch hours, telling another story about the U.S. Civil War. He shopped the novel around to various publishers, collecting a pile of rejection letters. Then in May of 1999, he received a call from White Mane Publishing. They did not want to purchase his civil war novel, but they did want him to write for them. And not just a single title, but a ten-book "Young Heroes of History" series, which made its debut in 2000 with Send 'Em South. With the first four entries, Kay put into concrete form his goal: making historical fiction interesting to the young. As Kay explained to Lorri Helfand of the St. Peterburg Times, "I want to write for kids because kids are still impressionable." Though the main characters and the basic story lines are imaginary, the situations that the characters encounter and the challenges they have to overcome are based on events experienced by real people. Kay chose to write about children because "kids can relate to kids," he told a writer for Black Issues Book Review. "I want my readers to realize that these people were real, they existed and they did extraordinary things." Yet in the telling, Kay does not whitewash the negative aspects of history. For example, Send 'Em South "is about terrible situations and how kids can succeed. If you keep it all positive, it's too simplistic," he told Helfand.
The first title in the series, Send 'Em South, recounts the story of a young Irish boy, David, who finds a fugitive slave girl who has reached Boston through the efforts of many along the Underground Railroad. In On the Trail of John Brown's Body, David ends up in Bleeding, Kansas, where he is introduced to the ideas of John Brown, who wants to overthrow the federal government and start a slave uprising. OfftoFight revolves around fourteen-year-old George, who becomes a soldier and fights in the Battle of Fredericksburg, while Nowhere to Turn tells the story of a runaway slave named Thomas and the Battle of Antietam. Focusing upon the role of females in the Civil War, No Girls Allowed shares the story of two young girls who each play a part in the Battle of Antietam. Each book includes an extensive bibliography to guide interested readers to further information. With teachers in mind, Kay also created free lesson plans, learning ideas, and resource lists to accompany his books.
Kay told CA: "As a teacher of American and World history for over ten years at both the middle and high-school level, I have endeavored to teach my students that history is not just a bunch of boring dates and facts. In class we conducted skits, held debates, watched movies, and even played games. While I have had some success with this, I always remembered how the book Johnny Tremain made me fall in love with history. The more I taught, the more I realized that in order to help my students truly understand history, I needed to recreate the feelings and emotions of kids their own age in the times we were studying. If I could do that, then they would get a real appreciation and love for history that would never go away." Kay has been very active in making history come alive for his students. One such endeavor is the National History Day program, which resembles a science fair but deals with historical topics. Another way Kay hopes to improve history teaching is by giving workshops to teachers on a variety of topics, such as participating in History Day, using historical fiction to teach history, and methods of teaching the Civil War.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Starr E. Smith, review of On the Trail of John Brown's Body, p. 190.
Tampa Tribune (Tampa, FL), March 12, 2001, Philip Morgan, "At Dawn, He Writes."
Black Issues Book Review,http://new.blackvoices.com/ (June 3, 2003), "History Morphs into Engaging Fiction Book Series."
Civil War Courier,http://www.civilwarcourier.com/ (March 12, 2003), Tish Osborne, "Noted Teacher Writes Civil War Series for Teens."
Young Heroes of History,http://www.younghereosofhistory.com/ (March 12, 2003).