Lamar Banister has been characterizing historical figures for 25 years in the classroom

“What better way to teach history than through the actual characters who lived it?” says  Lamar Banister, a teacher at L. C. Bird High School, and a historical interpreter.   

For twenty-five years, Mr. Banister’s first-person characterizations of historical figures have helped young and old understand and appreciate various eras ranging from Biblical times to the present.   Through extensive research, he re-creates authentic clothing, artifacts, stories and anecdotes to connect the past to the present for his students and/or audiences.   Indeed, by personalizing and interpreting history, Banister impresses his audience – they remember more about the times because they heard it “first-hand” from someone who actually lived them.  

An avid student of history himself, Banister’s repertoire is varied.  Characterizations include a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; soldiers in the War of 1812, Civil War, WWs I and II; Francis of Assisi; circuit riders; cowboys; swashbucklers; and even a Victorian-era undertaker.   His programs are complex.  Some programs feature musical programs using authentic instruments.  Other programs feature marksmanship skills, roping, and even flaming tomahawk juggling!  How is he so successful in bringing these people to life?  “Practice, practice, practice,” he says, and it shows.

Clearly, Lamar Banister is a dedicated educator who believes in what he does and does it well; his enthusiasm for the subject is contagious.  His love of history and the characters who lived it has spilled over into his company, “Past-Ports” (lamarbanister@pastportstohistory.com).   In addition to  teaching at L. C. Bird High School, Banister presents living history programs for local, state and national museums, libraries, churches, and retirement centers.  He has participated in programs such as “Virginia Currents” on PBS, and he portrayed a Civil War physician in Steven Spielberg’s recent production, Lincoln.

Keenan Entsminger, Social Studies Chairman at Bird High School, states, “Year after year, students tell me that the best part of their year was Mr. Banister’s presentations.  His commitment to historical education is unprecedented; every school in the United States should have a Lamar Banister.”

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