The term “classical” in the title of this blog is used as a reference to items from the past that have stood the test of time. The term “tyro’ refers to the things that are new, the things that are just beginning. 

The blog is therefore a mixture of the old and the new — the old and the new from history, art, and music, as well as from the professional life of someone who has spent over forty years teaching those subjects.  


The blog is maintained by James L. Smith who been recognized as the New Mexico Teacher of the Year, finalist for the National Teachers Hall of Fame, and the Las Cruces, NM, Public Schools Teacher of the Year. 

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History has recognized Jim as “New Mexico’s U.S. History Teacher of the Year,” and the Daughters of the American Revolution have recognized Jim as the “Outstanding U.S. History Teacher in the State of New Mexico.” The National Council for Social Studies has recognized Jim for “Outstanding Contributions Toward the Promotion of History in School and Society,” and the Masonic Lodge of New Mexico has recognized Jim for “Meritorious Services to Youth and Children.” Both the Dona Ana Historical Society and the College Board have given Jim special recognition awards for creative teaching and contributions to history education.

Jim estimates he taught over 5000 high school students during his thirty years in a public school classroom. As an education consultant with eighteen years experience, Jim estimates that he helped train over 10,000 teachers throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Southeast Asia. This number includes the 2775 teachers who attended the seminars and workshops on AP U.S. History that he led for the College Board and the more than 6700 teachers from 148 nations who attended the MOOC he created for Rice University titled “The Art of Teaching History.”

In 1993, Jim was awarded the James Madison Fellowship, allowing him to earn a graduate degree focusing on the history of the U.S. Constitution. In fulfilling his requirements for the Madison Fellowship he completed graduate and post-graduate work at Stanford University, American University, and New Mexico State University. In 1997, Jim was awarded the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship allowing him to complete a textbook for high school students titled Ideas That Shape a Nation, a book that explores historical ideas important to the development of the United States government, its laws, economic system, and social movements.

Jim has also been a two-time recipient of the William Roberts Coe Fellowship to study both the Bill of Rights and post-Civil War America at Stanford University.

Jim is the author of four books — Ideas that Shape a Nation, Catherine’s Son, Skipper Hall, and Flash Back — and has published numerous guidebooks for teaching writing, as well as selected topics in U.S. History and the humanities. 

Jim has had numerous articles published in such periodicals as Shared Voices, Historical Times, The Journal of Southern History, AP Central, Phi Delta Kappan, Reflexology Today, and Healthy U. He has also had articles published in books such such Acting Lessons for Teachers: Using Performance Skills in the Classroom, edited by Robert T. Tauber and Cathy Sargent Mester, and Teacher Top 5: Nationally Recognized Teachers Share Their Top 5 Teaching Strategies, edited by T. Nick Ip.

Jim currently teaches classes on selected topics in music history and U.S. history for three lifelong learning programs: The Western Institute for Lifelong Learning in Silver City, NM; The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in El Paso, TX; and The ARTE Institute for Lifelong Learning in Las Cruces, NM.

Jim has an undergraduate degree in music and history education, and he has earned two graduate degrees: an M.A. in History and an M.A. in Government.


According to the Ojibwe, an indigenous people of the Great Lakes area, a Great Rabbit known as Mishaabooz was co-creator of the world. Mishaabooz served the Ojibwe as a symbol of fruitfulness and renewal, a force that created a world in which further creativity came from humans themselves rather divine intervention. The Great Rabbit was a symbol of that creativity, making the rabbit in the photo below an appropriate symbol for a blog that celebrates the creativity found in music, teaching, and the humanities. The rabbit's smile will serve as an inspiration for everything posted on this site.

Smiling Rabbit photo © 2012 Mark Smith
Wood Statue photo in the header © 2012 Mark Smiith

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