Will Farquhar

History Teacher
Club Moderator Extraordinaire
Moderator of Astronomy Club, Organic Gardening Club, Asian Interest Club, Mock Trial Club, Debate Club

What do you love about teaching at Visitation?

Visi girls come to class with a positive attitude, open to new ideas. This might not sound like much, but it it is noticeably different from other schools. This openness allows for memorable—and good-humored—class discussions. These discussions often push beyond mere facts into ideas. Their attitude also allows me to experiment with teaching new material or with new approaches to the material.

Which is your favorite class to teach?

Each class has its attractions. In Global Patterns II, it is great to see the sophomores' minds open up as they see the follies of historical actors and they learn the themes that still affect our world today. In U.S. History, it is gratifying when the juniors connect our studies to current events and issues, like the role of the Electoral College in presidential elections.

What are some of the ways you bring lessons to life?

In history, my goal is to give students enough background on facts and issues that they can pick up a newspaper and understand most of the important articles and editorials. They should be ready to think about their world beyond the classroom and their neighborhood—and to combine their ethical standards with objective knowledge. I think our History Department curriculum is geared toward providing the knowledge for developing such a worldview.

In what ways does our Salesian charism inform and inspire your work with students?

In the history classes, we have enjoyed connecting the school and Visitation Order’s history with our studies. Every year, my Macroeconomics students discuss with Head of School Dan Kerns the relationship between the materialism of capitalism and the spiritual expectations of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has made some important comments on this tension. The Holy Father is looking to devout, knowledgeable Catholics to alter capitalism in order to reconcile these conflicting demands. I hope to start these girls down the path toward effecting such a reconciliation.

Why did you create the school’s Macroeconomics class a few years ago?

Macroeconomics studies human nature, history, and objective science. Macroeconomics helps students see connections between their classroom studies and their world. Because it relies on disparate sources, it helps the girls easily cross the mental borders between disciplines—a skill they will need in their work and life beyond school.

What kinds of field trips do you take your classes on and how do they enhance learning?

Every year, senior Macroeconomics students have taken a field trip to “Wall Street,” the financial district of New York City. There, traders, reporters, and economists discuss their perspectives with the girls. For the history classes, we have gone to many different museums, including the National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. Postal Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

These trips often put real-world "flesh and bones" on the skeletal coverage of the material we cover in class. In U.S. History, it helps the girls to see our coverage from the perspective of art or three-dimensional exhibits. For example, one pair of paintings in the Portrait Gallery demonstrates the change in how Americans viewed themselves in the early years of the Republic more effectively than a lengthy description of this change could.

Will has been teaching at Visitation for more than six years. He holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from Duke University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.