Dr. Alley Schottenstein Joins the History Department


Nick Watts, News Editor '23

Dr. Alley Schottenstein is a recent and welcome addition to the CCDS US History Department, chaired by Dr. McCall (Dmac). Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Schottenstein for a recorded interview. Below are some highlights from that interview that should help you get a better idea of who she is. You can also learn more about her here at her website.

My first question was about her origins. Dr. Schottenstein was born in Columbus, Ohio. Around age 5, she moved to Cincinnati where she attended Country Day as a young student. For high school, she attended CCH (Cincinnati Christian Hills) and was one of only three Jewish students.

Dr. Schottenstein is proud of her Jewish identity and heritage and explains later in the interview how that has impacted her life and allowed her to bring the changes she wants to see in her classroom and the world. She explained to me that while in High School, she had a memorable teacher, as I’m sure many of us do, that always had a Diet Coke with her. The teacher, Mrs. Cox, was an intense APUSH (A.P. U.S. History) teacher who expected a lot from her students. Dr. Schottenstein remarked that she felt like her “arm would fall off” by the end of class. She also said that people “for sure feared her,” but that she learned a lot in the class, despite the intensity.

In college, Dr. Schottenstein attended Brandeis University in Boston. Initially, she wanted to study to become a rabbi – a Jewish priest. She also studied Jewish studies and women and gender studies. In college, she realized that she actually wanted to become a social worker instead, and decided to switch to studying to become one. Later, while working in the American Jewish Archives at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College, she met the first African American rabbi to graduate from the college. The rabbi began talking with Dr. Schottenstein and told her that she believed that history was more than books and words retelling events. History was helping peoples’ stories to “come to life.” This inspired Dr. Schottenstein to again change course in her career preference. She now thoroughly believed that she wanted to become an American history teacher to help inspire and teach younger people about history and their place in it.

Eventually, Dr. Schottenstein received her masters and PhD in American history. She also stayed in college longer to specialize in the subfields of American and European Jewish history and race and ethnic studies.

My next question to her was about a quote from her website which claimed, “It is my wish that history be more accessible to all types of people.” I asked her what that meant and what her plan was for making that possible at our school. She replied that she believes that some people have a “negativity toward having to take a history class” and that it is important for all students to make connections with and relate to people and events in their history classes. She said her plans for implementing this at our school is to include the history of people of all identities.

Her ideas about making history engaging for everyone stems from her education while being Jewish. She told me that she vividly remembers being upset that there was barely anything to identify with her story and background during her study of history in high school and college. She told me that you “feel like you know certain things about what they went through, and you want other people to know about it too,” regarding discussions about the Holocaust and the stories of her family. She also remembers being in college and having peers express concern that they weren’t sure where they fit into the American story.


I also asked her about her family history and if she would be comfortable sharing the story of her grandfather. She kindly shared his amazing story of survival against all odds. At the age of just 13, he and his family were deported to a concentration camp. Unfortunately, many of his family members endured unspeakable acts of cruelty that they did not survive. When he, himself, was about to be sent to his death, however, a guard stepped in on his behalf and made sure that he was not killed. Before the war, Dr. S’s grandfather’s family were feather merchants, meaning that they interacted with people of all different nationalities. Her grandfather learned to speak multiple languages, a skill that would later save his life. After the war, his traumatic experiences led him to sleep with a suitcase by his bedside the rest of his life. The suitcase made him feel safe that in case of an emergency, he would be ready to leave.


I finished by asking Dr. Schottenstein about Country Day and how her first weeks have gone. She said that she already loves our community and school spirit. I also asked her about an uncomfortable moment that she has had due to being new. In asking this question, I remembered my own experiences of being locked out and getting lost in the first weeks of the 2015-2016 schoolyear. She said that she has banged her head into glass doors and had trouble with OneNote, similar to many of us. She also told me that she is so thankful for the patience and helpfulness of her students in times when she is having trouble adjusting to technology. Dr. Schottenstein has already visited the Country Day Cottage to buy some spirit wear. She is a welcome addition to the Upper School and will be at home in our community for as long as she stays.