2014 Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Winners
Canton High School
NHD Teacher since 1984
Why am I a National History Day teacher? National History Day is an amazing program that not only teaches students about history, but about themselves. It challenges them to go beyond the textbook, to find the rest of the story; to question what they have read and look deeper for the answers. National History Day provides equal opportunities for students in small, rural communities from low income families to compete with anyone if they are willing to put forth the effort. National History Day not only helps to mold better students, but better citizens as well.
He was a man who persevered through political failure to finally achieve his lifetime goal of becoming President only to have a large portion of his country secede following his election. He dealt with personal tragedy in the death of his son all the while trying to find a way to end slavery and heal our nation. He refused to let America be torn by regional differences. I would love to listen to Lincoln’s stories which seem almost proverbial in nature. To sit with this man so humble, yet so remarkable, would be an immense privilege.
When I think about the importance of National History Day for my students, one boy’s story always comes to mind. I began working with this young man as a sixth grader. He was not in my classes, but I was working with his older sister and volunteered to help him as well. This student has Asperger’s Syndrome and was bullied throughout his grade school years. We decided he should work on an individual performance because he loved to memorize everything. Throughout the school year he was heckled by classmates who couldn’t believe he could be successful, after all he wasn’t an athlete or most popular in his class. We didn’t let this stop us. I kept reminding him how good it would feel when he completed the project and stood before his audience and heard their applause. This student competed and won at the regional contest, and as we prepared for the affiliate competition I suggested he perform for his other classmates. He hesitated, not wanting to endure more rejection. Finally he agreed to perform at a local event honoring school volunteers, and his classmates were welcome to attend. When the performance ended he got a standing ovation and won the respect of many of his previous tormentors. This young man continued to work with National History Day throughout his years in junior high and high school. Every year I saw him grow with confidence. Now this young man has just completed his freshman year of college. He took his experience with National History Day and turned it into the inspiration he needed to be successful living on his own, making new friends, and becoming an adult.
Above all, I hope they remember that history is filled with ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary tasks through hard work and dedication. I want them to graduate knowing that even people from small town Oklahoma can make a difference in the world.
Theodore Roosevelt High School
NHD Teacher since 1998
I am an NHD teacher because the process of developing a project is extremely meaningful for students. It mirrors how professional historians work and builds skill-sets that are vital for success in college and in life.
“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist of the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.”-Aldous Huxley
I would love to have dinner with John Muir and thank him for his ceaseless dedication to promoting immersion in nature and preservation of wild spaces for posterity. Although he was unsuccessful in preventing the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite, his passionate argument against it includes an eloquent and beautiful distillation of why nature and parks are so vital:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks—the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.—Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.”
Through the NHD process, students learn to think critically about everything that they are viewing and reading. They see that every source, past or present, has a subjective viewpoint, and that only by scouring many different sources and perspectives can some attempt be made to get at the “truth” of a situation. Even then, you really can’t know exactly what happened in the past. There are mysteries that stay unsolved and questions that remain unanswered or contested, and that’s OK. Students also discover that there may be very different ways of looking at something that are all perfectly valid yet contradictory, which helps them learn to appreciate diverse outlooks on the world. In addition, students hone their organizational and time management skills through the NHD process. It takes a lot of discipline and perseverance to meet all the deadlines and keep refining a project through various levels of competition. Often, this is the largest project my students have ever done up to this point and the first time they’ve defended their findings before audiences that extend beyond the classroom or school. Finishing a project of this magnitude results in a tremendous sense of empowerment for my students, especially since the project is based on a self-chosen topic about which they are passionate and presented in a format (paper, exhibit, live performance, video, or website) that showcases their particular strengths and talents as learners.
I want students to remember that there is joy in learning and to cherish the sense of accomplishment they felt when they completed their projects. At the same time, I want them to recall that at some point in the process, they got frustrated or came up against a difficulty that required creative solutions. I hope they carry that attitude of never giving up with them into the future. Generally in life, nothing worth achieving is easy. I also want them to remember everyone they encountered along their NHD journey, ranging from renowned scholars to everyday people exercising extraordinary human agency to students from across the country all searching for that ever-elusive last button to acquire in a trade at College Park. Every person has a unique story to tell.
Quality teachers are critical to student success. NHD recognizes their outstanding work and dedication to their students and the NHD program through offering annual teaching awards. Do you know an outstanding NHD educator? Then nominate him or her for one of our awards.
Patricia Behring sponsors the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award, which recognizes outstanding NHD teachers. Two winners, one at both the junior level and senior level, will be selected from each affiliate. The winners of the national awards will be selected from among the affiliate awardees. Each affiliate winner will be awarded $500 and the national winners will receive $10,000. Applications are due to affiliate coordinators by March 15, 2015.
Use the nomination forms below: