History repeats itself. Except when it doesn't, in which case details get lost and the public forgets pieces of the past -- even things as devastating as a New York Harbor bombing.
It's enough to drive a history teacher to tears. Or in the case of Joe Moniaci, a Valley Stream North High School history teacher, it drove him to host a TV show, "What History Forgot," airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on American Heroes Channel.
So what's the history of how this came to be? One of his former students, Samuel Catalano, was doing an internship at the production company Atlas Media and "had the opportunity to pitch something" to the producers there, says Moniaci, 41. "And he emailed me saying, 'I'm going to pitch a history show; what kind of events can I talk about?' So I wrote back [suggesting] this and that, and, kidding around, I said, 'And I get to be the host.' It started as this half-joking thing in an email."
One demo reel later, Moniaci, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History, was giving lessons in front of the biggest (virtual) classroom he'd ever had.
Born in Oceanside and raised in Massapequa, Moniaci had had no formal on-camera training but had performed in plays at Binghamton University, where he'd majored in history before getting a master's degree from Columbia University's Teachers College. Yet as it turned out, "I'd had 17 years of practice in the classroom," he says. "A great book we studied in grad school described teaching as something like five shows a day, 900 shows a year. Being in the classroom and being in front of students is something I felt translated well to what I'm trying to do with the show."
That includes being more than just a passive host. The father of two -- who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with his clinical-psychologist wife, Dr. Deborah De Santis-Moniaci -- pitched some ideas that became segments, such as one about the little-remembered Black Tom Island bombing of New York Harbor by German saboteurs in July 1916.
Moreover, he says, "I'm definitely part of the fact-checking process. Every once in a while there's something where I say, 'That's technically not correct' or 'Please fact-check that again.' "
And they sort of have to listen to him. After all, how many TV-show hosts could flunk you?