John Daum


by Holly Gambrell of

Why do you enjoy teaching fifth grade?
Fifth graders are just old enough to really grasp interesting intellectual ideas that make a deep impression on them before the turbulence of the teenage years and all its distractions settle in. I see a lot of what I teach them as a lifelong gift I am giving them—a gift they can return to again and again. Things like appreciating great art, understanding the beauty of architecture or experiencing the magic of a fantastic city like New York, which we study and then enjoy on a three-day class trip.

You created your own history curriculum at The Hill School. Tell us how that came about.
I was frustrated early on as a teacher that there were no art or architecture textbooks designed for fifth graders that would inspire lifelong learning. I am fortunate to work at The Hill School, where the administration understood my frustration and gave me the green light to design and implement a rich and meaningful curriculum that I enjoy teaching every day. I am constantly updating and improving my curriculum bringing in new ideas and fine tuning the material. I teach Renaissance art history, architecture, medieval history, classic literature, New York architecture and engineering, as well as Greek and Roman mythology, Norse mythology and Greek vases.

You also own Daum Adventures. What is that company?
During spring and summer vacations, I take small family groups to Europe as part of my company, Daum Adventures. These are art- and architecture-focused trips for kids to places like Bruges, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, Prague and beyond.

What do you like to do outside the classroom?
I am the featured lecturer for two Loudoun County Public Library series: Armchair Travel, which takes place all over the county, and Beer and Art, which takes place at Old Ox Brewery.

My upcoming Beer and Art is on March 2, featuring Greek and Roman mythology and art. Armchair Travel is coming to Ashburn Library on March 12, where I will be taking people on a virtual trip to Athens, Greece.

What inspires you while teaching?
Everything I teach, whether to kids or adults, is about seeing something and not just looking at it. The art of seeing is crucial and is too often taken for granted. But in order to truly see a great work of art or architecture, you have to first know what kind of questions to ask and that is what I try to do. I try to give a reference point, a point of view, an insight that might help to appreciate the wonder of an artistic achievement.