Perhaps not all that coincidentally, however, Gartrell fits the profile of history teacher well enough. He wears glasses and a corduroy blazer, and he has a favorite topic: American slavery and the subsequent emancipation. He can talk at length about how Abraham Lincoln gradually assumed the role of emancipator, for which he became mythologized. He appreciates history as something that transcends mere facts and dates: "History is about people, and people are complex." He's soft-spoken.