Paul George admits he wasn’t the smartest student in his high school class at Archbishop Curley High. But his senior year, he took a history course that would ultimately influence his career path.
“I had a marvelous history teacher my senior year,” George said. “He taught it in such an interesting manner, with outlines and anecdotes that I grew to have a positive outlook in the year-long American history course.”
Now George himself is a familiar face at the head of the class, teaching popular courses in local history at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.
His fall term kicked off in August. But for those who missed the registration deadline, no fear: He also offers a course on Florida history in the spring.
“One of my pride and joys is my Miami history class,” George said. “The students are not traditional, a lot of them have lived a long life and are curious about Miami history.”
His classroom is comprised of students from all walks of life, including attorneys, investors, teachers and physicians.
“It’s interesting because people who take the course take it because they want to,” he said. “The bonding in the course is wonderful.”
He’s been a full-time professor at Miami Dade College since 1991. His class syllabus offers a combination of lectures and opportunities to learn outside the classroom. Frequent tours take place at the locations where the history he is teaching originally took place.
“I balance tours with lectures, and there’s videos we also use in the class. There’s a lot of material,” he said. “The tours are the most important.”
George’s own history is tied to South Florida.
After graduating high school, George attended Miami-Dade College and the University of Miami. He decided to pursue a history major his junior year in college.
George, who grew up in the Riverside neighborhood and later in Little Havana, was ready for something new when he left to Tallahassee to pursue his master’s and doctorate in history at Florida State University.
“When I went away, I was ready for another place. But as the years wore on, Miami became more intriguing to me,” he said.
Over the years, he’s taught at numerous institutions, including the University of Miami, Florida State University, Florida A & M University, Florida Atlantic University, and Miami Dade College.
He’s worked as a historian and has numerous written works under his belt – including fifteen books, nearly two hundred articles, book reviews and columns.
In 2011, Miami New Times called him “Mr. Miami History.”
And yet, despite the numerous accolades and accomplishments he’s amassed, he still claims his Miami history class is one of his proudest undertakings.
Some students find themselves repeating the course – not out of necessity, but because of genuine interest in the material and the style the course is taught. Ricardo Diez, for example, took the class last year. He is enrolled in the same course this fall.
Originally from Colombia, Diez took the course after taking one of George’s tours of the Miami River. George offers around 50 tours of the Miami area, which can be accessed through HistoryMiami.org. HistoryMiami has been sponsoring George’s tours since 1988.
In one of those tours, Diez learned about George’s course.
“It’s just for general interest and for fun,” said Diez, who works as an investor. “I find it very educational, and I find him, his class and his teachings very entertaining.”
Other students take the course for career development.
Lois Randall took George’s course two years ago. Her interest in the material led her to become a tour guide for Miami. Now, a member of the Professional Tour Guide Association of Florida, Randall describes George as “her favorite, her mentor.”
“He’s just incredible,” she said. “The course is not only a basis of the history of South Florida, but when you go on trips you can actually see what he is talking about.”