Canyons students will have a rare opportunity to learn from a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian this Thursday, Jan. 11, at Alta High as part of the school’s eighth annual history colloquium.
Alan Taylor is known for his expertise in American history, as the Thomas Jefferson Chair in American History at the University of Virginia and a former Harmsworth Professor at the University of Oxford. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, as well as being a finalist for the National Book Award and George Washington Prize. The famed author and educator has been a keynote speaker at several national conventions, but this week, he’ll be spending a day in Canyons at the request of Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa.
“This is designed specifically for the kids,” Ochoa said. “Teachers attend and get a lot out of it, but the reality is, I designed this specifically for our students. It’s like, ‘If you can’t get Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed.'”
Ochoa established the colloquium at Alta in 2011 as a way to expose Canyons students to distinguished history experts from across the country. Over the years, various preeminent educators, including three Pulitzer Prize winners, have visited the home of the Hawks, making multiple presentations about their books and sitting down with a small group of students from Ochoa’s class. Each time, other schools are invited to participate and learn from experts who teach at the country’s top universities. Some 250 students and teachers from Jordan high and Brighton will attend the symposium, and 15 of Ochoa’s honors students will have a sit-down lunch with the professor, with a unique question and answer opportunity.
“It really is a unique experience to be able to meet these people,” Ochoa said. “Speakers really are intrigued by the fact that this is designed for high school kids. If it was for college, they wouldn’t be as nearly as receptive to doing it. They think this is just over the top to do this for a high school.”
Ochoa asked Taylor to come last year, but the author was unable, as he was working as a visiting professor at Oxford at the time. Taylor’s books cover slavery, the American Revolution, colonial Virginia, American colonies, native Americans and the early settlement of the country. Of all of the speakers who have come to Alta to speak as part of the colloquium, Ochoa says Alta students are especially lucky to hear from Taylor.
“I get excited about everybody,” Ochoa says, “but this one is truly a prize catch.”
What: Alan Taylor will discuss two separate books about colonial American history.
When: Thursday, Jan. 11 at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Where: Alta High School, 11055 S. 1000 East in Sandy