Tuesday with Colonial America

Bayonne High School

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day teaching teachers about colonial America.  It was a long day, but it was fun.

In the morning I led a Gilder-Lehrman Institute workshop on colonial America for 5th grade and high school teachers at Bayonne High School in Bayonne, NJ.  In the three hour session we covered three main topics.  First, I tried to get the teachers to think historically about the colonial period by asking them what the narrative might look like if they were not guided by a Whig interpretation of history. Second, we discussed mercantilism, servanthood, slavery, and race in seventeenth-century Virginia. Third, we explored the meaning of John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” in seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay.

The Bayonne teachers were very engaged throughout.  I also got to meet and work with Ron Adkisson, the 2012 Teacher of the Year for the state of Kentucky.  And it was a real privilege to teach in a high school that was built as part of the Works Progress Administration.

After the session in Bayonne I followed Interstate 78 back to Mechanicsburg where I met up (again) with Lance Warren and Hannah Ayers for week 5 of my Gilder-Lehrman online graduate course: “Colonial North America.”  We spent the first hour of the course discussing slave culture in colonial South Carolina and the second hour on the Enlightenment in America.  One more week to go in this course.  I must admit that I am feeling a lot more comfortable with the online format.

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute Princeton Seminar on "The 13 Colonies" is Back!


If you are a K-8 teacher and are looking for a professional development opportunity this summer mark your calendars for July 24-30, 2016.  Consider applying for our Gilder-Lehrman Institute summer seminar on “The 13 Colonies” at Princeton University.

Some blog posts from previous years.

Learn more about how to apply for the seminar here.  

Here are few endorsements from K-8 teachers:

  • “Dr. John Fea did a remarkable job sharing his knowledge in the area of the 13 colonies. His passion for history is evident in his lectures and I am more motivated today to teach tomorrow. I have always been intimidated by the 13 colonies because each colony’s background is so diverse. I have a better grasp on the colonies and I will be able to share primary documents to support the classroom learning. I am looking forward to teaching this in the coming weeks.”
  • “Thoroughly enjoyed the week in NJ. Strengthened my content background & walked away with tons of resources (primary specifically) to take back to my classroom.”
  • “This seminar was the best thing I have experienced in 25 years of teaching. Dr. Fea was outstanding and his lectures were riveting. I appreciated the content, the setting, and the master teacher’s assistance. It was amazing and memorable. I will certainly be applying this content and these principles to my teaching this year.”






Congratulations Dave McIntire!

Dave McIntire teaches history at the Independent School in Wichita, Kansas.  I just learned that he was awarded the Judy Cromwell Excellence in Teaching Award from the Kansas Council for Social Studies.  Read all about it here.

Why am I bringing Dave’s accomplishment to the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home? Because Dave was in our Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History summer seminar on the 13 Colonies in 2015.

Congrats, Dave!

Lin Manuel-Miranda Wins a "Special" George Washington Book Prize

Lin-Manuel Miranda.Washington College, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, and Mount Vernon has announced that Lin Manuel-Miranda, the creator and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” will be awarded a special achievement award by the George Washington Book Prize.  

Here is some more information:


NEW YORK—Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright, lyricist, composer, and star of the groundbreaking hit musical Hamilton will be honored with a Special Achievement Award from the Board of one of the nation’s most prestigious literary honors, the George Washington Book Prize. The special award and accompanying prize of $50,000 will be presented to Miranda at a ceremony in New York City on December 14, 2015.
Created in 2005, the Washington Book Prize recognizes new works that offer fresh perspectives on George Washington and our nation’s Founding Era. One of the largest literary honors presented each year, the $50,000 prize is awarded jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and Washington College.  
Miranda’s special recognition marks the first time the George Washington Prize has been presented to a play. In announcing Miranda’s selection, a spokesperson for the Washington Book Prize Committee stated, “In capturing the hearts of all who have seen it, Hamilton has clearly made the lessons of our Founding accessible and engaging while hewing to historical fact. We honor Lin-Manuel Miranda with a Special Achievement Award for this extraordinary accomplishment.” 
Miranda’s recognition circles back to the first George Washington Book Prize, which was awarded to Ron Chernow for his biography Alexander Hamilton in 2005. According to Miranda, Chernow’s book was an inspiration for his blockbuster musical. 
Of course it is hard for me to pass up news about the George Washington Book Prize.  Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? was chosen as one of the three finalists in 2012.

Upcoming Gilder Lehrman Online Graduate Courses

Peniel Joseph will teach African American History

As many of you know, I am in the midst of teaching an online graduate course on Colonial North America for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  See my reflections from the first week of course here).

Recently, Gilder Lehrman announced its Spring 2016 online courses.  They are:

African American History Since Emancipation with Peniel Joseph

The Supreme Court and the Constitution in the 20th Century with Risa Goluboff

Women and Gender in 19th-Century America with Stephanie McCurry

Looks like a great lineup.  Registration begins on November 16, 2015.  Learn more here.

Gilder-Lehrman Online Course on Colonial North America: Week One

The first day of class is in the books.  As some of you know, I agreed to teach an online graduate course this semester for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.  The course, “Colonial North America,” began last night.  Those who follow the Virtual Office Hours (which will be coming back soon) know that I have been on camera before, but I have never taught an online course before. Fortunately, Lance Warren and Hannah Ayers were there to coach me through it!

The course got off to a bit of an inauspicious start when the Internet in my office cut out unexpectedly about five minutes into the class.  This prompted at least one member of the class to turn to Twitter:

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Lance and Hannah quickly moved us from Ethernet to WiFi and we were back in business.  It turns out that I was responsible for the glitch.  Unaware that the Ethernet was running through the phone on my desk, I unplugged the phone cable.  My intentions were good.  I wanted to make sure that the phone wouldn’t ring during the session.  In doing so, I brought the course to an embarrassing, albeit momentary, halt.   For those students who are reading this, I am truly sorry.  I don’t think it will happen again.

We spent most of our time “together” last night discussing the format of the papers that the students will be writing each week, talking about the limitations of a “Whig” approach to studying the colonies, and examining some of the economic and religious motivations for settlement.  In addition to my lectures, the students (most of them are K-12 teachers) are reading Alan Taylor’s American Colonies and a host of primary sources.  In preparation for last night’s course they read documents by Columbus, Cartier, Hakluyt, and others.

It took some time for me to adjust to the online format.  For example, it is hard for me to sit still when I am teaching.  I need to move around the room and wave my arms.  As I looked back at the video of the session I am constantly bobbing and weaving in my seat.  I need to get used to being “stuck” in the camera frame.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for me was the lack of immediate feedback from the class.  I am used to asking a lot questions–sometimes in rapid-fire style–when I teach.  This is not easy when you need to wait thirty seconds or more for answers.  Lance did a great job feeding me the questions as they came onto his computer screen, but it was still a bit strange for me.

Finally, online teaching makes it impossible to take the temperature (so to speak) of the class.  I can’t see their faces.  I can’t tell if they are connecting with what I am saying.  I don’t see the head nods or looks of concern when they don’t understand something.  I will have to get used to it.

As I come to the end of this post I realize that I sound rather negative about the experience.  Actually, I had fun doing this.  It is not the same as teaching in a face-to-face classroom, but I don’t think anyone taking the course is expecting that kind of experience.  I am sure I will feel more comfortable in my virtual classroom as the semester goes on.  I think we got off to a good start last night.

Gilder-Lehrman Online Course on Colonial North America Begins Tonight

Tonight I will see how well my teaching style translates into an online course.  It is the first night of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute’s “Colonial North America” graduate course.”  We have about 120 people registered (I don’t think this is includes auditors) who will be getting graduate credit at Adams State University in Colorado.

I am happy to be working with Kathy White of Gilder-Lehrman who will serve as the course’s “master teacher.”  Wayne Kantz of Manheim Central High School in PA and Aaron Bell of American University will be my teaching assistants.  Lance Warren and his team at Gilder-Lehrman will be the brains and technological support behind the operation.
I will do my best to post my thoughts about teaching online here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home
The registration for the course is currently closed.

Gilder Lehrman Institute Names Its 2015 Teacher of the Year

Her name is Mary Huffman and she teaches fifth grade at Charles Pickney Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  Huffman joins the ranks of the other fine teachers who have won this award, including Nathan McAlister, my partner in crime in the GLI “13 Colonies” seminar at Princeton University.

Congrats.

 Here is the Gilder-Lehrman press release:

New York, NY (August 18, 2015): The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Mary Huffman from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has been named the 2015 National History Teacher of the Year. Started in 2004, the award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school.

Ms. Huffman will receive a $10,000 award and attend a ceremony in her honor at the Yale Club in New York City on October 19, 2015. The award will be presented by Robin Roberts, co-anchor on ABC’s morning show Good Morning America.

Mary Huffman teaches fifth grade at Charles Pinckney Elementary, a public school in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She uses hands-on lessons to help her students “become active American citizens who make positive changes in the future.” Her students create care packages, write letters to US troops, and participate in veteran’s week celebrations by inviting soldiers into the classroom. Ms. Huffman has also designed an interactive unit that includes a WWII draft simulation.

“It is essential that the past is not forgotten, and teachers hold the tools to pry open old hope chests to uncover dusty photo albums from the past,” Ms. Huffman explains. Each week, she dresses up in clothing from the era being studied, allowing her students to get up close and personal with historic artifacts, such as twenties flapper dresses, nineteenth-century Native American fringed pants, and military uniforms from the Vietnam era.

“One of the most exciting things the Institute does is to award this prize that honors great teaching,” says Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. “I am in awe of Mary Huffman’s creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm. Her students are lucky indeed.”

In addition to the national award, Gilder Lehrman annually recognizes a first-rate history teacher in every state and US territory. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of Gilder Lehrman books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.
To learn more about the award and to find a list of previous national and state winners, visit gilderlehrman.org/nhtoy

Princeton Seminar: Day 5

The Gilder-Lehrman “13 Colonies” Crew

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History Summer Seminar on the “13 Colonies” has come to a close.  It was a great week at Princeton University.

The morning began with a lecture on Native Americans.  I introduced the teachers to some of the metaphors used by historians to explain Indian life in the North America at the time of English colonization.  We discussed the “Middle Ground” (Richard White), “Facing East” (Dan Richter), and the “Indian’s New World” (James Merrell).

The second lecture of the morning focused on the First Great Awakening in British America.  We spent some time discussing George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, the difference between Old Sides and New Sides, some basic interpretations of the Awakening, and the revival’s impact on colonial education.

After lunch, and before I turned the class over to Nate McAlister, we talked about the Britishness of the colonies.  My goal was to try to get the teachers to see that the colonists were becoming more and more British (as opposed to “American”) as the colonial period unfolded, culminating in the British nationalism that pervaded the colonies in the wake of the French and Indian War.  In the process we discussed the dangers of the “Whig” interpretation of history and the importance of teaching students–even K-8 students–how to think like historians.

Later in the afternoon the teachers presented the lesson plans that they had been working on all week.

I always leave these seminars energized.  Sometimes I prefer to hang around with teachers than with my fellow colleagues in the historical profession.  When academic historians gather together informally the meetings can sometimes devolve into posturing, gossip, and complaining about teaching loads, college administrators and colleagues.  When K-8 teachers get together they talk about the past, history, and teaching history.  It is refreshing.

This year we had a great group of teachers and it was fun getting to know them.  I hope that Jami, Dave, Teresa, Brittany, Courtney, Susan, Carol, Carol, Elisa, Jim, Mallory, Christine, Susan, and the fifteen other teachers who came to Princeton this week were able to take something home with them that will make them better educators.

And to Nate McAlister:  Let’s do it again next year!

Princeton Seminar: Day Four

Nate McAlister leads a pedagogy session

It was a great day in Princeton with the teachers from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History “13 Colonies” seminar.  It has been a very hot and humid week and we have done a lot of walking (and sweating), but the teachers have yet to hit the proverbial “wall.”  These K-8 educators are like a bunch of Energizer Bunnies!  Each day they seem to be more engaged than the day before.  Nate McAlister, their fearless leader, keeps them busy with all sorts of teaching resources, websites, and other tools. 

Tonight the teachers are working hard on their lesson plans and Nate is hanging out in a dorm lounge offering suggestions and help.  Needless to say, it has been a great week.  Here are a couple of highlights:

  • A teacher from Utah found her father’s 1957 Princeton doctoral dissertation on the history of the New Jersey Constitution.  She had never seen the dissertation before because her father passed away shortly after he finished it.  I know it has been a very meaningful week for this teacher.
  • A teacher from Florida has been thinking deeply about how to lead her students into the past (the past is a “foreign country) and still make it relevant for the present.  It is so rewarding to watch her come to grips with the inherent tensions that come when one pursues historical thinking at a high level.  As I conversed with her today I was reminded that historical work is very tiring.  We historians and history teachers are constantly “on the road,” traveling back and forth (with our students) between the past and the present.

I gave two lectures this morning.  I began with a lecture on the “provincial Enlightenment.”  This is always my favorite lecture of the week.  I tried to explain the Enlightenment through the biography of two men: Philip Vickers Fithian and Benjamin Franklin.  My Fithian book works very well here in Princeton. As many of you know, Philip was a member of the class of 1772. 

My other lecture this morning was on slavery and rice culture in colonial South Carolina.  We talked about the connection between South Carolina and Barbados, the arrival of West African slaves, task and gang labor, the Stono Rebellion, and the emergence of a distinct African-American culture.

After Nate led the teachers through another great pedagogy session, we headed over to the Rare Book Library in Princeton’s Firestone Library.  I asked Gabriel Swift, a member of the library staff, to pull about thirty books and documents from the collection.  I narrowed my choices to books mentioned in Alan Taylor’s American Colonies, books we discussed in lectures, and books that Philip Vickers Fithian read at various points of his short life.  The teachers got to peruse these books, hold some of them, and take pictures.  Gabriel also showed the students the Fithian’s diaries. 

Gabriel Swift, a Princeton Rare Books librarian, answers questions from teachers

Teachers reading the diary of Philip Vickers Fithian

After our visit to the Firestone Library we crossed Nassau Street (in the rain) and got some ice-cream at The Bent Spoon, a very popular Princeton establishment.  I highly recommend the bananas and cream!

Tonight, while the teachers worked on their lessons, I wandered around the Princeton campus.  I really hope that Princeton faculty appreciate the fact that they get to come to work every day on this campus.  As someone who has spent a lot of time studying the history of this institution, I am always finding something new and interesting about the college and the town in which it resides.

But tonight my self-guided walking tour focused on another one of my loves–sports.  I walked out onto the field of the new Princeton football stadium, tried (with Nate) to get into the Hobey Baker Ice Arena, and then headed over to Jadwin Gym.  I went to Princeton basketball camp as a kid and became enamored with Pete Carril, the architect of the so-called “Princeton Offense.”  I walked into Jadwin, stood on “Pete Carrill Court,” and took some pictures. 



Pete Carril is a basketball genius
The Princeton Tiger in Jadwin Gym
Jadwin Gym

Pete Carril and Bill Bradley banners in background

One more day left.  Stay tuned.

Princeton Seminar: Day Two

We have made it through Day Two of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Seminar on the “13 Colonies” at Princeton University.  It was a long day, but the twenty-seven K-8 teachers here this week are still going strong.  This group has a lot of energy and they seem to be really engaged.

Today I gave a lecture on the founding of Massachusetts Bay colony, the role of women in colonial New England, and the founding of Pennsylvania.  In the afternoon Nate McAlister worked with the teachers as they developed their lesson plans.

Pennsylvania as a Quaker and liberal colony

After dinner we took a tour of colonial Princeton led by guides from the Historical Society of PrincetonRichard Moody led some of us on a wonderful tour of Princeton University.  Richard took us to Nassau Hall, Nassau Presbyterian Church, the university chapel, the president’s house, and a host of other places on campus.  Richard knows how to end a tour.  The last stop was the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn.

Richard Moody telling us about the history of Princeton

Tomorrow we are heading to Philadelphia where we will be getting a tour from George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.

Have You Signed Up Yet for the Gilder-Lehrman Fall 2015 On-Line Course on Colonial North America?

I heard that this has the potential to be a pretty good course.  Sign up here.

Here is a taste of what you can expect:

Too often the history of the “American colonies” focuses on the thirteen British provinces that rebelled against the mother country in 1776 and formed what became known as the United States. While such an approach allows us to understand the British roots of our current national identity, it fails to do justice to those regions of North America (many of which eventually became part of the United States) and those people and groups that did not participate in the grand experiment of American independence.

This course will examine North American history during the period of European colonization. Rather than thinking about colonial America as a necessary forerunner to the American Revolution or the birth of the United States, we will make an effort to understand colonial life on its own terms. Though we will not ignore the British colonies on the eastern seaboard, we will also examine the colonial experiences of the French, Spanish, Dutch, and other European nations. In the process, we will critique the so-called “Whig” interpretation of the colonies and think together about how this particular period in the American past provides a laboratory for teaching historical-thinking skills in the K–12 classroom.

SCHEDULE

  • The course will meet for live sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in the fall from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET.
September 1
September 9
September 15
Septem
ber 23

September 29
October 7
October 13
** Fall break: October 19–30 **
November 3
November 11
November 17

  • The course will be presented in two types of sessions:
    • Six seminar sessions led by Professor John Fea
    • Four pedagogy sessions that demonstrate how to bring the content into middle and high school classrooms
  • All sessions will be recorded and available to watch on-demand.
  • Regular attendance is strongly encouraged but not mandatory.

READINGS & ASSIGNMENTS

  • Graduate participants must purchase copies of the course texts:
    • Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (Penguin Books, 2002)
  • Participants will also read primary documents provided as PDFs or web links during the course.
  • Preparation for each seminar session should take about four hours, composed of reading approximately 120 pages of assigned passages from the course texts and primary documents.
  • No reading will be assigned for the four pedagogy sessions.
  • Assignments include:
    • Five 1,000-word essays summarizing and critiquing the assigned readings for each seminar session, except our first meeting.
    • One lesson plan demonstrating the use of tools and strategies presented during the pedagogy sessions to teach one class period of instruction.
  • You will receive the syllabus on the first day of class.

COSTS

  • Graduate participants may join live sessions and complete assignments in pursuit of 3.0 graduate credits from Adams State University for $600.
  • Auditors may watch session recordings and pursue a Continuing Education Certificate of Completion for $25. Teachers from Gilder Lehrman Affiliate Schools may audit for just $15. Please note that auditors are not permitted to take part in the live sessions.

REGISTRATION

Registration begins July 6 and concludes August 24, 2015, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Please note that the credit-bearing graduate section of the course is limited to 100 participants and may fill before the registration period ends.

I Will Be Teaching an Online Course On Colonial North America with Gilder-Lehrman in Fall 2015

I am happy to report that I will be doing an online graduate course for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History this coming Fall.  Learn more about it here.  

A taste:

COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA

Too often the history of the “American colonies” focuses on the thirteen British provinces that rebelled against the mother country in 1776 and formed what became known as the United States. While such an approach allows us to understand the British roots of our current national identity, it fails to do justice to those regions of North America (many of which eventually became part of the United States) and those people and groups that did not participate in the grand experiment of American independence.
This course will examine North American history during the period of European colonization. Rather than thinking about colonial America as a necessary forerunner to the American Revolution or the birth of the United States, we will make an effort to understand colonial life on its own terms. Though we will not ignore the British colonies on the eastern seaboard, we will also examine the colonial experiences of the French, Spanish, Dutch, and other European nations. In the process, we will critique the so-called “Whig” interpretation of the colonies and think together about how this particular period in the American past provides a laboratory for teaching historical-thinking skills in the K–12 classroom.

SCHEDULE

  • The course will meet for live sessions on ten evenings in the fall from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Specific dates will be announced soon.
  • The course will present two types of sessions:
    • Six seminar lecture and discussion sessions led by Professor John Fea
    • Four pedagogy sessions that demonstrate how to bring the content into middle and high school classrooms
  • All sessions will be recorded and available to watch on-demand.
  • Regular attendance is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.

READINGS & ASSIGNMENTS

These details will be announced when we launch registration on July 6, 2015.

COSTS

  • Graduate participants may join live sessions and complete assignments in pursuit of 3.0 graduate credits from Adams State University for $600.
  • Auditors may watch session recordings and pursue a Continuing Education Certificate of Completion for $25. Teachers from Gilder Lehrman Affiliate Schools may audit for just $15. Please note that auditors are not permitted to take part in the live sessions.

REGISTRATION

Registration begins July 6 and concludes August 24, 2015, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Please note that the credit-bearing graduate section of the course is limited to 100 participants and may fill before the registration period ends.

LEAD SCHOLAR


John Fea

John Fea is professor of history and chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where he has taught early American history for thirteen years. He is the author or editor of four books, including the award-winning Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction and The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America. Fea writes and speaks widely to both academic and popular audiences. He is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer and has been awarded fellowships by the American Philosophical Society, Mount Vernon, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the New Jersey Historical Commission, among others. He blogs daily atwww.philipvickersfithian.com.

"The 13 Colonies" Gilder-Lehrman Seminar at Princeton is Back!

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History just released its Summer Seminars for 2015.

Once again I will be doing a seminar on the 13 colonies at Princeton University for K-8 history teachers.  Head over to the Gilder-Lehrman website to learn more about how to apply for these free seminars.  If you are selected, Gilder-Lehrman covers all your expenses for the week, including travel to Princeton.

In addition to attending daily lectures and preparing a lesson on colonial America, the members of last year’s seminar spent a day touring Philadelphia, took a twilight walking tour of early American Princeton, and spent a couple of hours in the Princeton rare book room examining copies of seventeenth and eighteenth-century texts.  The food at Princeton was pretty good too.  So were the accommodations and the ice-cream at The Bent Spoon!

Milwaukee Bound

Lecturing to 500 Milwaukee Public School students at Marquette in 2009

I am about to depart for my third Gilder-Lehrman Institute workshop with the good teachers of the Milwaukee Public School District.  I was here in 2009 to do a lecture at Marquette University on children in colonial America.  In April 2013 I returned to Marquette for a lecture on immigration and religion in American culture.

During the next two days I will be leading a workshop with Gilder-Lehrman master-teachers Ron Nash and Nate McAlister (2010 National Teacher of the Year) on colonial America (for 5th grade teachers) and late 19th-century immigration (for 8th grade teachers). Someone at Gilder-Lehrman must know that I used to regularly teach a course called “Immigrant America” at Messiah College.

I am looking forward to meeting Ron Nash and reuniting with Nate, my partner in crime at Princeton this past summer.

Gilder-Lehrman Institute National History Teacher of the Year

It is not our own Kevin Wagner, but congratulations to Michelle Anderson of John Glenn High School!

Congratulations to Michele Anderson of John Glenn High School,
the 2014 National History Teacher of the Year!
HISTORY® and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History are pleased to
announce that Westland, Michigan high school teacher Michele Anderson has been

Her work with students has drawn the attention and acclaim of the Her work with
students has drawn the attention and acclaim of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the
Library of Congress. In 2013, she received the Michigan Historical Commission’s “John B.
Swainson Award” for her efforts to preserve the memory of Michigan’s defense workers
and World War II veterans through student-led oral history interview projects with
World War II and Korean War veterans.

Please join HISTORY® and The Gilder Lehrman Institute in wishing Michele congratulations on a richly deserved award!

Do you have a teacher you’d like to nominate for the 2015 award? The nomination process is quick, easy, and free. Nominate a teacher today.
About The National History Teacher of the Year Award
The National History Teacher of the Year Award, started in 2004, highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. 
In addition to the national award, HISTORY® and Gilder Lehrman annually recognize a first-rate history teacher in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Department of Defense Schools, and U.S. Territories. Each state winner receives $1,000, an archive of books and resources from Gilder Lehrman and HISTORY® for their school’s library, and becomes a finalist for the national award.
To learn more about the National History Teacher of the Year award and view a list of previous national and state winners, please click here.

2014 Gilder-Lehrman "13 Colonies" Seminar: Day Six Recap

Friday was the final day of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar for K-8 teachers on “The 13 Colonies.”  We had a discussion of The Way of Improvement Leads Home followed by a lecture on the First Great Awakening and a lecture on the anglicization of colonial America.  In the afternoon the teachers presented their lesson plans to Nate McAlister and each other.

I am always amazed at the way people respond to Philip Vickers Fithian’s story in The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  One teacher from West Palm Beach, Florida said that she finished the book at Starbucks and was so moved by the ending that she started to cry.  She told me that she immediately called her daughter to tell her about the book. 

After dinner on Friday night I went out for a drink with Nate and we reflected on ways that we could improve on the seminar if Gilder-Lehrman asks me to do it again next summer.  

It was a great week in Princeton and I am honored to have been able to work with such a gifted group of K-8 teachers.

If you want to know what happens at one of these seminars head over to our Twitter feed.

Here are a few of those tweets:



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2014 Gilder-Lehrman "13 Colonies" Seminar: Day Two Recap

Firestone Library–Princeton University

It was a full day in Princeton.  The Gilder-Lehrman “13 Colonies” seminar is off to a great start (or at least it is from my perspective as the instructor).  We started the day problemetizing the “Whig” interpretation of history and trying to imagine what the history of the American colonies might look like if we did not view the colonies solely as a precursor to the American Revolution.  Alan Taylor’s American Colonies was very helpful on this front.

We spent the rest of the morning on native American history.  Most of what we discussed was informed by Taylor’s American Colonies, James Merrell’s The Indians’ New World, and Dan Richter’s Facing East from the Indian Country.  My goal was to get these K-8 history teachers to see the world through the eyes of the native Americans, to get them to think culturally (rather than geographically) about the concept of the “New World,” and to see moments of native American agency on the “middle ground.”

After lunch we began our exploration of the early Chesapeake by exploring death and mercantilism in Jamestown.  This morning we will finish that story.

Nate McAlister is my partner in crime this week.  Yesterday afternoon we met with Stephen Ferguson, the rare book librarian at Princeton’s Firestone Library.   On Thursday afternoon we are taking the teachers into the Firestone so that they can touch, hold, read, and discuss some seventeenth and eighteenth-century books.  I get the privilege of creating the book list.  Nate and Stephen suggested that the list should include everything read by Philip Vickers Fithian.  We may also get to look at the original diaries that I worked with for The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  This should be exciting.

2014 Gilder-Lehrman "13 Colonies" Seminar: Day One Recap

As many of my readers know, I am at Princeton University this week leading a Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar for K-8 teachers on “The 13 Colonies.” Last night we had a nice reception/dinner with the teachers and it looks like it is going to be a fun week.  They seem eager to explore Princeton (and later in the week Philadelphia) and think about colonial history. Nate McAlister, my co-laborer this week and the real leader/organizer of this seminar, started the night off with some trivia questions from the books I assigned the teachers to read in preparation for the week.  One of the questions was “Who was the man who opened an academy in southern New Jersey and got Philip Vickers Fithian started in his pursuit of education?” I was amazed how quickly one of the teachers answered this question.  It looks like they have read the material. (Did I mention that I assigned The Way of Improvement Leads Home?). By the way, can you answer this question?  Write your answer in the comment section below or on Facebook.

As some of you may also know, there is a seminar over at Princeton Theological Seminary this week on the history of church and state in America.  As I walking down Nassau Street last night on my way to the reception I ran into Baylor University’s own Thomas Kidd and his family. It was good to see him and meet his family.  Tommy is co-leading this seminar along with Gerald McDermott.  It is a very small world.

Next Week: The "13 Colonies" at Princeton University

The seminar will be held in Princeton’s Lewis Library

On Sunday I am heading to Princeton University to lead a week-long Gilder-Lehrman Institute summer seminar on “The 13 Colonies.”  This weekend K-8 teachers will be arriving at Princeton from schools in Illinois, California, New Jersey, Utah, Washington D.C., Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.  I also get the privilege to work with Nate McAlister, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year!

I will lecture in the mornings and Nate will work with the teachers on lesson plans in the afternoon. We also have a few special things planned, including a tour of historic Princeton and Princeton University and a day in colonial Philadelphia with George Boudreau, the newly appointed director of the Public History M.A. Program at LaSalle University and the author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.  We will also be reading The Way of Improvement Leads Home and Alan Taylor’s American Colonies.

I hope to blog my way through the week. Nate and the rest of the participants will be tweeting: @princetonsemnr