Just like I can't get to know you, my students, without learning about your past, you should get to know something about my past as well. In fact, learning "where someone comes from" is a tremendous part of why we study history at all!
The way I first encountered history was through the “living history” museums my parents brought me to as a child. Places like Colonial Williamsburg and local historical societies. I found it fascinating to learn how people navigated the problems of daily life. These were real people with real lives. The volunteers spinning wool and operating steam engines were doing real things. Things that were fascinating. I started reading all the history books I could get my hands on, but I found myself asking questions which were never answered: where did people poop? Did their shoes give them blisters? This quest went on through high school.
At University I found social history, the study of material culture and gender history. These fields had answers.
I Majored in History and Social Studies at Santa Clara University. While there I also studied historically accurate Costume Design for Theatre with Barbara Murray. After graduation she invited me to work as a research assistant on her forthcoming book “Her Bit of Ribbon: Discussion of Women's Fashion in California 1848-1885”. This was my first opportunity to work with primary source documents and artifacts as part of the research process. It expanded my interest from places like the American frontier into other times and places where two different cultures meet. The concrete materiality of people's clothing in the past, is something tangible and relatable But the more interesting thing was the sense of clinging to something familiar in an unfamiliar world. Through this project I became interested in cultural interaction across the Atlantic world, and how things like clothing and tools became symbols of culture and identity. Migrants, both voluntary and involuntary brought with them across the ocean aspects of their culture and lives which continue to inform the societies around the Atlantic today.
To explore this interest further, I pursued an MA part time at CSULA between 2007-2009 But was disappointed with the program overall. One bright spot was my good fortune to study African Colonial History with Dr. Sarah Pugach. Over time many of the classes that I had hoped at to take at CSULA were canceled and I withdrew from the program to focus on my day-job teaching High School History. I decided to continue my studies on my own, which is how I came across the works of Hasia Diner and Karen Kupperman.
As a High School Social Studies teacher for five years (2008-2012) I integrated elements of social and gender history into the curriculum. Dr. Diner's books “Erin's Daughters in America” and “ A Time for Gathering 1820-1880: The Second Migration, Vol. 2” allowed me to include the everyday experiences of life; the jobs, religion and possessions people value. I was also able to explore the importance of projecting one's identity through material objects and personal adornment in Karen Kupperman's book “Indians & English: Facing off in Early America.” Kupperman's work informed the way my classes looked at how cultural groups defined themselves as different from the “other.” Things like personal adornment, face-painting and hair styles are ways people show who they identify with. In light of this, her work reveals the extent to which both the Indians and English were changed by their interactions.
In 2012 I moved to New York City to pursue a Masters Degree at New York University. I was able to study with Hasia Diner, Rebecca Goetz, Marion Casey, Michael Gomez and many other great historians. I completed an MA Thesis which looks at the banking habits of Irish women who emigrated to New York in the period of the Great Famine. My research enabled me to overturn some prevailing narratives about nineteenth century women, and their relative power within immigrant communities.
From 2012 until present I also have collaborated seasonally with CSDC Willow Glen in California to create art pieces which enable students to gain a better understanding of historical events through the medium of dance. My collaboration with CSDC students has reinforced my convictions that history should be learned in multiple ways. Usually students engage with the past through reading, writing and teacher lectures. But by integrating alternative formats and media into the experience, students come away with different and new insights in ways which they never forget.
how my former students and colleagues describe me:
"On the first day of our senior year economics class, Ms. Muntz told us that economics was about how people make decisions. From that point I was hooked. For the whole semester, she fostered a mature intellectual environment, one in which she challenged us to take responsibility for our own learning, and engage deeply and critically in the material. If it wasn't for her, I might not have decided to major in Environmental Economics. I will forever be grateful to Ms. Muntz for her encouragement and passion."
If you want to give Ms Muntz feedback or let her know how she is doing as a teacher, you can email her via the contact page.