For the past three years, the Department of History at The University of Arizona and Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) have been working together to help middle school teachers teach American history. In the process, UA history graduate students have learned valuable lessons about the importance of outreach.
In 2006, the UA and TUSD received a grant for almost a $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the grant was to raise student achievement by improving teachers' knowledge and appreciation of U.S. history. The grant partners also included the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona School Services through Educational Technology, Kids Voting Arizona and Teachers’ Curriculum Institute.
The partnership has been very successful. The grant served more than 200 teachers and 5,000 students. TUSD teachers received help on integrating new Social Studies standards into their curriculum, using interactive teaching and incorporating new technologies. The UA offered annual summer institutes and a series of school-year seminars taught by UA professors, including Karen Anderson, Benjamin Irvin, Katherine Morrissey, Michael Rembis, and Michael Schaller.
The UA participated in the grant to help improve public school education, but one of the biggest unanticipated advantages has been how the grant allowed graduate students to play a key role as interns/mentors to the TUSD middle school teachers. The UA history graduate students have met with lead teachers bi-weekly to plan lessons and work on content knowledge.
“I think one of the indirect successes of this grant has been its impact on our graduate students. They’ve learned about the valuable role a public university can play in K-12 education. Through their participation, they have developed a keener sense of our outreach responsibility,” says Katherine Morrissey.
Department of History U.S. history graduate students who have worked as interns include Sal Acosta, Sigma Colon, Sean Duffy, Katrina Jagodinsky, Neil Prendergast, and Genoa Shepley.
“Being an intern with the Teaching American History Grant has prepared me for future collaborative efforts between academia and the local community,” says Katrina Jagodinsky. “Sharing history education with middle school teachers and their students reinvigorates my belief that American history is a fundamental and inclusive component of public education.”
"As an intern, I visit teachers who have been learning new technologies to creatively integrate information and make history more accessible to students,” says Sigma Colon. “As a former high school teacher, I feel lucky to have been part of this grant.”
Neil Prendergast concurs. "When I speak with my colleagues teaching seventh and eighth grade… I try to offer a little content knowledge, but it's really the teachers who know how these kids think. I hope I help these teachers in their efforts to educate, but I sometimes think I take more than my share away from these conversations. Before I began with TAH, I didn't think much about how the Civil War could be important to a thirteen-year old. I've learned how working at a university can be an opportunity to reach beyond campus."
To celebrate this three-year collaboration, the Teach America History Grant Showcase will take place on Feb. 4, 2009 from 4:30 – 6pm at Rincon High School’s Little Theater, 421 North Arcadia Blvd. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be served.
The Showcase activities will include: a video showing the work of TUSD middle school teachers with UA history graduate interns, a panel discussion on the successful collaboration between the UA and TUSD, and recognition of the lead teachers from TUSD middle schools and UA history graduate interns/mentors.
The UA Department of History and TUSD want to extend their partnership and are applying for a new three-year Department of Education, Teaching American History grant — this one targeting 5th grade teachers and classrooms.
Contact: Katherine Morrissey, UA Associate Professor of History, 520-626-8429, firstname.lastname@example.org