West Liberty teacher writes his own history

By Mary Atkinson

One West Liberty Middle School teacher thinks he may have found a way to pique the interest of students in his U.S. history class. Dan Stevenson is writing a book about the history of West Liberty that could be used along with a book about Iowa and the class’s main textbook to give his students a better perspective on the subject.

“I think that seeing that history happened here is naturally appealing to students,” said Stevenson. “It’s a lot more concrete to think of what happened here than some far-off place.”

Stevenson, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, who currently lives in West Branch, said that over the years he has worked to include more state and local history to help students see a connection, thus making history more real for them while fostering a sense of community pride.

“Adding this West Liberty book will help students see where our community fits in the story of our country and state,” he said.

When asked about other ways the book would benefit students, Stevenson said that the research on the history of West Liberty has made him more knowledgeable, allowing him to incorporate it into his curriculum.

“Additionally, I am looking to have students help me with tasks such as digitizing the 1878 city directory,” said Stevenson. “With this, they will be able to find different ways to process and present data from the past.”

Stevenson, 39, who has been teaching U.S. History to eighth graders in West Liberty for nine years, said he is in the editing phase of the first chapter. With the help of his wife, Mary Beth, he plans to add illustrations, images, and a timeline, then post the information on his school website to share with the wider community.

The first chapter begins the book with the opening of eastern Iowa for settlement and the people who came here in those early years.

When asked how his book idea was received, Stevenson said that he has received great feedback and support from the community, with some people suggesting that he write more recent history.

“I think there are some great stories that need to be documented from the last forty years or so,” he said. “However, I am focused right now on creating a resource that I will be able to use in my classes, so I’m limiting my scope to the period prior to roughly 1900.”

Stevenson said he is feeling really excited about the book project coming together. “I’ve been kicking around the idea for a few years now, so to finally be doing it is fantastic,” he said.

Stevenson encourages people to contact him at his email address, [email protected], if they would like more information about this project or to share some history notes.