FHSU grad lives for history

Mr Demko

By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Even though he was living half a continent away in the Pacific Northwest, Andrew Demko was able to learn more about his passion while earning a history degree from Fort Hays State University.

Demko, who teaches history and social studies in Rainier, Ore., completed his Master of Liberal Studies degree with a social studies emphasis through FHSU's Virtual College in 2005.

"All the programs were really, really nice; I enjoyed the classes," Demko said. "I was working full-time as a teacher and I was looking for a program that was history related and I could still work. Fort Hays State had a program that would work for me to get my master's degree."

Demko, who has taught for about 20 years, engages his students through living history. There isn't just book learning in his classes.

Demko, who already enjoyed living history before becoming a teacher, has portrayed characters from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Lewis and Clark expedition, among others. His favorite periods in history would include the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

"I do living history with my students," said Demko, who teaches seventh-grade geography, eighth-grade U.S. history and ninth-grade world history. "It's a passion, something I enjoy."

Demko formed a history club at Rainier Jr./Sr. High School. The National History Club -- which has more than 550 chapters in 44 states -- names the top 10 clubs nationwide each year. Demko's history club has placed in the top 10 three times.

Demko's club had about 20 students this past school year.

"You have kids who are interested (in history), and those kids are your club members," Demko said.

Teaching history is important, Demko said.

"It's teaching kids about citizenship, knowing something about their country," he said. "Current events affect us. What is our government doing? It's being aware of what's going on."

Adding living history to his teaching method has enhanced his students' learning, Demko said.

"Some of the kids will tell you they've learned more doing that," he said. "For a teacher, that inspires you more, too. You see kids getting it, out there doing living history."

Demko got a lot out of his FHSU education, too.

"The classes were interesting," he said. "I had one class in civil rights -- very interesting. Another one, early man and beliefs in history, I learned a lot in that class. The history department was outstanding."

FHSU helped Demko become a better teacher.

"Education-wise, I wanted to advance," he said. "You want to improve as a history teacher. I tell my kids you want to know the latest out there. That's how you know the latest -- you go back to school."

Demko, 48, first became involved with living history in the late 1980s while working as a volunteer guide at Fort Nisqually in Washington. He saw others dressed as costumed interpreters.

"That's where my interest got started," Demko said. "It's more than just reading a book -- you're actually doing it. It brings it alive. I've learned more doing that than reading it out of a book."

Demko has been part of re-enactments at Fort Nisqually, now a living history museum in Tacoma, Wash., the Oregon Trail and military ones, too. Through networking with other re-enactors, Demko finds his period clothes or has them made.

"It's an expensive hobby, but it's fun," Demko said.

Demko dreams of being a volunteer at colonial Williamsburg or being one of those bus tour guides in Washington, D.C., when he is retired.

That's in the future. Now, Demko lives for living history, for his students. He makes the past come alive.

"I take the kids to Fort Clatsop every year, which is the Lewis and Clark fort," Demko said. "The next day, I dress up as Clark. I have the tri-corner hat and buckskin look."

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