The Teacher

Let’s start with the basics:

I’m Tanya Roth, and I completed my PhD in American history at Washington University in St. Louis in 2011. My research specialty is women in the Cold War military. These days, I teach at an independent K-12 schoolRoth Supreme Court in the St. Louis area, and I really love it. (There’s not much opportunity to talk about military women in the Cold War, but my background does come in handy.)

I still struggle to call myself a writer, even after spending years blogging and writing a dissertation, a novel draft, short stories, and now, the manuscript for my book. I was a reader first, and my love of writing came from that. I grew up in a house filled with books, a tradition I maintain in my home office where I write. (I don’t keep count any more because they just seem to multiply daily.) Once I became a history teacher, I turned my classroom into overflow shelving, which seems appropriate since classrooms are great places for history books.

For more than five years now, I’ve been helping high school students discover the more fascinating parts of American and world history. I also love helping my students learn to write well; teaching writing is one of the best things I get to do as a history teacher. I’m head over heels for my career, and I’ve had the privilege to work with amazing students. When I started working on my book this year, I discovered that this experience has also made me a better writer. As a teacher, you think all the time about how to make things accessible – but this is always a work in progress..

I’m also a little taken with my family, which includes my husband (a geotechnical engineer), my three-year-old son (he’s still working on what he wants to be when he grows up), and my dog (he thinks he’ll be human when he grows up, but we did name him Sirius, so we deserve it). They’re all important, and as it turns out, they play a not-so-insignificant role in navigating my writing life these days. Right now, writing is hard to do when the school year is full swing and I’m running ten directions from activity to activity.

But at the same time, I’m eager to write more than lesson plans. For about a year now, I’ve been diving back into the writing life, learning how to balance teaching, family, and writing. I’ve got a long way to go, but my biggest accomplishment so far has included a first draft of my book, which makes me pretty happy.

At the moment, the book is tentatively titled Flirting with Equality: American Women in the Cold War Military. In it, I uncover all the contradictions and complexities of women’s military service from the end of World War II through the 1980s. For a moment after World War II, it looked like American women might become the nation’s next best military weapon. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but when Congress passed legislation to put women permanently into the military starting in 1948, they set the stage for exactly the types of debates we see today about women’s proper roles in national defense. Even more than that, my work shows how ideas about what women’s place in society, politics, and the workforce have changed in the past seventy-five years.

Next up: find an agent, and keep writing all kinds of things, from nonfiction to short stories to personal essays. I have a few ideas under my hat that I’m ready to pull out. I’d like to explore some historical fiction and draft some personal essays. Now that I’m further along with the book, I plan to write a few articles. At the moment, I’m also feeling pretty inspired by Ray Bradbury’s advice to write a short story every week, which may turn into my new goal. Follow along here to find out!

 

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