Presidential portrayals effective way to reach students

One mark of a good teacher, besides helping students grow academically, is a lasting, positive impression that he or she leaves on students.

Greg Lewis has done just that for the past 20 years with his presidential portrayals.

The Columbus East High School social studies department chairperson uses each Presidents Day to teach local students about one of the former United States presidents. Lewis dresses up to look like the president he’s selected, and while in character talks about what he did as president and answers questions about his presidency.

This year he portrayed James Buchanan, the 15th president, who served from 1857 to 1861 — although he had to do that a day later because inclement weather caused the cancellation of school on Presidents Day, Feb. 15.

Lewis’ living history presentations are a fun and creative way to engage students and help them learn about the country’s former leaders. His dedication to the project is admirable.

For example, one year he shaved his head to portray Martin Van Buren, who was bald. Another year he spent most of the day in a wheelchair to portray Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who spent much of his life in a wheelchair because of the effects of polio during childhood. Some years he’s grown a beard for the part.

Besides teaching East students about the presidents, Lewis has made presentations at Central Middle School and Southside Elementary and has made visits to Just Friends Adult Day Care at Mill Race Center.

Lewis’ dedication to teaching presidential history is commendable, and the creative way in which he does that is a reminder that learning can be fun.