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Culture to Classroom: Thomas Lenihan Brings Travels to Curriculum

AP+European+History+teacher+Thomas+Lenihan+on+one+of+his+many+exotic+trips.
AP European History teacher Thomas Lenihan on one of his many exotic trips.

AP European History teacher Thomas Lenihan on one of his many exotic trips.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Lenihan

Photo courtesy of Thomas Lenihan

AP European History teacher Thomas Lenihan on one of his many exotic trips.

Grace Stroup, Sentry Staff Reporter

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There is a map in Thomas Lenihan’s classroom with pins that light up where he has traveled. It is rich in color and the pins range in distance. Not surprisingly, Europe is bombarded with greens and pinks and blues. Lenihan teaches advanced placement (AP) European history, and law and world affairs. He continued his travels throughout Europe this past spring break and went to France.

“Definitely one of the highlights was that I went to the D-Day beaches, and then the American cemetery. That was a very moving experience and something that was great to see. I saw a bunch of great stuff: Versailles, The Louvre, The Monet House in Giverny. I really liked what I saw,” said Lenihan.

As an AP Euro teacher, Lenihan usually knows all about the places he visits prior to arriving. France was no different. I learned last year, by sitting in his class, that he is a very diligent researcher when it comes to visiting places with historical relevance pertaining to his class.

“Most of them have quite a bit (of historical relevance to his class). Versailles, obviously because it was built by Louis XIV and that is the Age of Absolutism. Monet’s house in Giverny because we cover impressionism and he is one of the major impressionist artists,” said Lenihan.

Despite hearing that the French could be cold and rude to Americans, Lenihan was pleasantly surprised.  He also does not speak the French language except for a few short phrases, and found that the people were extremely helpful.

Because Lenihan has traveled so far and so much, it is hard to compare the trips. He finds that culturally they are vastly different but rewarding and interesting nonetheless. He has visited Europe countless times and ventured to islands off the coast of Ecuador last year.

“Every place I have been to is different and I like to travel, but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. Last year I went to the Galapagos Islands for spring break which was a very different and unique experience,” said Lenihan.

Last year Lenihan also visited Cuba, becoming one of the first Americans to be immersed in a city essentially stuck in time.  France is an ancient country that has evolved into the historically modern nation it is now, while Cuba had been under a communist regime since the beginning of The Cold War.  The United States’ relations with this small, vibrant nation have been tested throughout the twentieth century so visiting Cuba is a big feat for any American. President Barack Obama and his family visited Cuba earlier this year, becoming the first president to visit the tiny island since 1928.

“Cuba does not have as many museums as France and is not as big of a country as France. It is a totally different experience when it comes to culture so it is hard to compare the two,” said Lenihan.

It seems that he was extremely impressed with French culture and cuisine and perhaps he will venture back over the Atlantic in the years to come to get another sweet taste of the famous social scene. Lenihan is known for his love of travel and one can only hope that in the next five years the map that sits near his desk and attracts the wandering eye will be littered with dozens more pins.

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Culture to Classroom: Thomas Lenihan Brings Travels to Curriculum