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Teacher offers tangible benefits to history lessons

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SAN DIEGO — A high school teacher is making his history lessons a little more tangible for San Diego students by displaying thousands of pieces of presidential memorabilia.

“Over 20 years, we’ve accumulated almost 40,000 pieces of authentic presidential memorabilia,” said Clairemont High School teacher Jim Fletcher.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1 58 13 PMThe collection includes unique pieces from each president including a pair of golf shoes that were in President Clinton’s possession for a short time.  It also includes a whiskey flask that was given to potential voters to encourage them to support for Andrew Jackson.

“The material culture of a presidency, it’s the kind of thing you just can’t get out of a book,” said Fletcher.  “We have some things that are more than 200 years old and the student can hold them and get whatever they can out of the piece itself. That’s a primary source taken to the next level.”

Students say it’s inspiring.

“I think it’s really awesome because he uses them in his lesson and he’s brought us in there (the museum) before which is really cool,” said Senior Emily Vastola.

About one tenth of it is displayed in a classroom turned museum in the school.  The other portion is in the school library and the rest is in a storage room.

“Most of the collection never sees the light of day, because we just don’t have room to display it,” said Fletcher.

His hope is to raise enough money to put portions of the collection in elementary schools across the city.  He estimates it will take about $20,000.  The wood shop at Clairemont High is working to build the cases for the memorabilia.

“We could actually put 10 cases in elementary schools within the next 12 months,” he said.

Fletcher believes it’s achievable and imperative.

“Being able to add value to whatever it is that you touch, that’s how you make meaning out of a life and that’s what I’m trying to work with students to be able to do,” he said.

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