Green Leader's Bio

Wes Dodgens
Green Leader


Wes is co-creator and co-author of the Star Wars curriculum and also serves as the designer and webmaster of and He is currently a twelfth year Social Studies teacher at Mauldin High School in Mauldin, South Carolina where he teaches World History and World War II & the Cold War. His education background also includes teaching Economics, US Government, and US History. Wes promotes using technology and innovative teaching methods and has hosted numerous professional development classes on the subjects. He strongly advocates the use of virtual classrooms/field trips. In 2010, Wes was recognized by the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies for excellence in teaching. Wes is honored to have been voted Mauldin High's Teacher of the Year in 2010 and 2015. Wes is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Social Studies and a Master of Education in Secondary Administration from Clemson University.

In 2007, in cooperation with Lucasfilm, Ltd., he and long-time friend Thomas Riddle created "Adventures in Learning with Indiana Jones" ( which provides teachers with interdisciplinary curriculum and lesson ideas based upon the iconic film hero. In 2012, Thomas and Wes launched a companion project, "Star Wars in the Classroom," providing inspiration for lessons in history, language arts, science, and the arts.

How I Use Star Wars in the Classroom

Like millions of other people around the world, I consider myself overly obsessed with Star Wars. My love for that “galaxy far, far away” comes from my childhood. I was born in 1980, missing A New Hope by a few years and The Empire Strikes Back by only a few months. By the time Return of the Jedi was released I was at the age where, though I was still too young to see it in the theater, I was captivated by the toys, books, and playsets. I have fond memories of my grandfather taking me in our local Kay Bee Toys and letting me pick out a new Star Wars action figure. They always seemed picked over and I ended up with less popular figures like the “Rancor Keeper” or some other random and less significant alien. Still, there was the occasional prize like obtaining Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker (Jedi Outfit).

A few years later, the VHS revolution brought Star Wars permanently into our home. As I grew into an adolescent, my love for Star Wars remained strong, but I began to find new interests. One such interest was my love of history. When I was in eighth grade I had the privilege of studying under a teacher who was very passionate about the content he taught, which was South Carolina History. I remember him talking about how history made him feel excited, especially when he visited a historical site. I began to realize that I shared a similar passion and it was during this time that I began to realize my destiny of becoming a high school social studies teacher.

Read More Of This Overly Long Star Wars Story

Shortly after enrolling in college, Star Wars returned to the big screen in the highly anticipated Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Sure, it had its disappointments, but Star Wars was back and so was my love for the films! Throughout college, I delved deeper and deeper into World History. I studied the historical plethora that any history major would subject himself to including: the classical civilizations, the world wars, and western and non-western histories. As I learned more and more about our world’s past I began to make interesting connections. I would see images of the Nazis marching down the streets of Poland or France and notice their high collars and calf-high leather boots which bore striking similarities to the Imperial Officer uniforms of Star Wars. Then there were more obvious uses of words like republic, knights, and stormtroopers that were all based in historical truth.

As the new trilogy’s plotlines played out in theaters I paid closer attention to the story elements. One of the most obvious examples is the rise of Palpatine from being a humble senator to becoming the Emperor of the galaxy. As I watched Episodes I and II over and over again, I began to notice how closely the story of Palpatine resembled that of Adolf Hitler in pre-World War II Germany. The failure of the Republic, Palpatine’s manipulation of power, building up a powerful army, it all made so much sense and I knew the connections were there.

In 2003, I graduated from college and began my career as a high school social studies teacher. When it was relevant, I would say things like, “and this is just like in Star Wars.” Many students would nod their heads with understanding, some would condescendingly smile, while other students would stare with confusion… a look that teachers come to know very well. I was thrilled that I could find ways to bring Star Wars into my classroom, but the inclusion stopped with these subtle verbal examples that left me satisfied, but many students sometimes lost and confused.

A few years later I grew to become very close to one of my colleagues, Thomas Riddle. When I first began teaching at my current school I had the privilege of "floating" in or using Thomas’ classroom. When I walked into his classroom on that first day I was struck by his choice of decoration. There were Star Wars items all over his room. He had models of X-wings and TIE fighters, 12” display figures, posters, and even a full size R2-D2 cooler. It felt like home, but I was intrigued and awed that a teacher would embrace his “nerdiness” so openly. Being the “new guy” and somewhat shy, I never really approached Thomas to discuss Star Wars, I just resigned to the fact that he was clearly a kindred spirit.

A couple of years went by and, as fate would have it, I was asked by my principal to attend a multi-day and out of town professional development conference. There were a few other attendees, one of them being Thomas. I volunteered to drive to the conference and Thomas ended up being my only passenger as the others would drive down later.

As we drove to our destination, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were the main topics of discussion. We both talked about our love of Young Indiana Jones and using it in the classroom. I told him how Young Indy inspired my love and fascination of World War I. Thomas explained how he had been using Young Indy in the classroom since the early 1990’s when it was on television. Then he asked me if I had ever used Star Wars in the classroom. I said that I would reference it from time to time, but I had never shown Star Wars in class. My initial thoughts were, “What educator in their right mind would show Star Wars in class?”

I knew the connections were there, but it had never occurred to me to actually show the films or clips to students. Thomas spent the next hour or so explaining how he developed a series of lessons where students learn about mythology through Star Wars. The best part was applying this knowledge through watching the films. Of course there is more to it than that, but I was in awe of the concept of actually showing Star Wars in the classroom. I began to share my ideas about World War II and Star Wars to which Thomas was very receptive. Since that fateful trip some eight years ago, I have incorporated Star Wars into my lessons wherever I can. I have found that it makes my teaching more meaningful and a whole lot more fun for my students. By using a beloved movie series that students can understand, I unlock what would otherwise be a boring series of historical events that have little or no meaning to kids.

In my World History course, I teach students about mythology and storytelling via Star Wars. We begin by examining Joseph Campbell's ideas behind The Hero with a Thousand Faces and compare these to well-known myths and stories. Finally, we move into Episode IV where students view the film and correlate Luke's journey to that of the hero.

I also use The Empire Strikes Back during my unit on World Religions. The concept of the Force and the Jedi correlate well with the commonalities of World Religions, but more specifically with the Eastern Religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. Finally, we close out our world history and Star Wars studies with Return of the Jedi, which is used to analyze the Fall of Rome.

At my current school, I also have the privilege of teaching an elective class on the World Wars. The pressure of time is not as great in this course, so I have the ability to show the Prequel Trilogy in its entirety. As they view the films, students compare and contrast Palpatine's rise to that of Adolf Hitler in post-WWI Germany. The similarities are truly striking and it really makes one wonder if Lucas sat down with a history book and simply changed the names.

If my time as an educator has taught me anything, it's that students want to learn! However, teachers often see little of this excitement because they fail to tap into that energy. Integrating Star Wars into the curriculum is a great way to engage students and make learning more fun. If you've never taught with Star Wars, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find. Oh, and your students will love you for it!

Available Resources from Wes
Additional Photos

In 2010, Thomas Riddle and I had the privilege of being invited to the "Star Wars Holy Land," Skywalker Ranch! Sharon Wood, the former Head of Documentaries at JAK Films (the production division of Lucasfilm) was kind enough to invite us to the Ranch where she graciously spent the day showing us and our families around. The highlight of the trip was bumping into George Lucas in the Ranch's kitchen! We'll save that story for another time.

The Gates of Skywalker Ranch Open for Only the Truest of Fans

Wes and his wife, Megan displaying their Clemson "Tiger Rag" at the Ranch

Megan, Angela and Nick (Thomas' wife and son, respectively) are excited to have just bumped into George Lucas!

We stumbled upon Tik-Tok who was stuck amongst the courtyard plants at Skywalker Sound. Sure enough, he needed winding and then promptly stated, "Stormtroopers? Here? I must tell the others!"

Group photo on the steps of the Main House

"She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid."

**All information shared with permission.