Betsey Kennedy, fourth grade teacher at Big Shanty Elementary, has been named the 2011 Georgia History Teacher of the Year. The award is co-sponsored by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, HISTORY® and Preserve America.
Kennedy brings U.S. history to life in myriad ways, using exciting and dynamic techniques that infuse rich resources and technology into her instruction. Some of the projects she has developed with her students are 1920’s silent movies to help her students understand that era, a reality show based on settling the west, webquests to bring other topics to life, and a class movie on the Holocaust that integrates history with literacy instruction by exploring history and historical fiction related to the Holocaust. In all of these projects her students plunge into analysis of primary source documents, photographs, artwork, online resources, and the collections of local history museums.
Kennedy’s hard work and talents do not stop at her classroom door, however. She has been shared her talents with other teachers through her presentations at district, state, and national social studies conferences. She has written curriculum units for social studies at both the district and state levels. She helped to write the district’s rigorous and engaging history extension tasks for our elementary students who can go beyond our state standards.
JoAnn Wood, the Cobb County School District’s K-5 Social Studies Supervisor, applauds Kennedy’s award, stating, “At a time when a narrow emphasis on language arts and mathematics has shoved history to the margins of many elementary classrooms, it is heartening to see that history is not only alive and well but is thriving for Betsey’s students. She is most deserving of this award.”
As part of the award, Kennedy received a $1,000 honorarium and Big Shanty’s library received a core archive of history books and educational materials from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and HISTORY®. Kennedy will also receive an invitation to a Gilder Lehrman summer seminar and Big Shanty will be named a Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School.
“This award gives us the chance to recognize great history teachers across the country,” said Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “It puts exceptional educators front and center.”
Inaugurated in 2004, the National History Teacher of the Year Award promotes and celebrates the teaching of American history in classrooms across the United States. The award honors one exceptional K-12 teacher of American history from each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and US Territories. The 2011 award honors elementary teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade. The selection of the state winner is based upon several criteria, including: at least three years of classroom experience in teaching American history; creativity and imagination in the classroom that address literacy and content beyond state standards; close attention to primary documents, artifacts, historic sites, and other primary materials of history, including oral history; and evidence of thoughtful assessment of student achievement.