Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gilder Lehrman Institute Announces 2013 National Teacher of the Year

Congrats to Jill Szymanski! 

Here is the press release from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History:

New York, NY (September 18, 2013)—Jill Szymanski, a 4th/5th grade teacher at Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Delaware, has been named the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History announced today. The National History Teacher of the Year Award (formerly the Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award), co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, HISTORY® (The History Channel), and Preserve America, honors outstanding K–12 educators in American history and carries a $10,000 prize. Ms. Szymanski, along with two students, will be provided a trip to New York City for an awards ceremony held in her honor in the fall. 

“Being selected as the national winner from a pool of fifty-one candidates is unbelievable,” states Jill Szymanski, the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year. “As a teacher I know that if I don’t appear to be interested in the subject matter, my students never will be. I strive to make history dimensional by bringing in historical documents, taking students on site visits, and allowing them to connect with history on their own terms. This award validates that my efforts are making an impact.” 

Ms. Szymanski, a sixteen-year veteran of the classroom, incorporates a range of techniques into her teaching. Her students utilize primary and secondary sources on their assignments, and one class’s yearlong project culminated in a “Civil War Museum” where students became experts on themes such as the causes of the Civil War, the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the impact of the Civil War on families. 

James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, notes, “This year’s selection process was difficult due to the talented pool of applicants. However, Ms. Szymanski’s ability to push her students to think critically through the use of primary and secondary source documents and visits to historical sites, and her boundless energy, made her the clear standout candidate for this award. Educators like Jill demonstrate how inspired teachers create inspired students.” 

Dr. Libby O’Connell, SVP Corporate Outreach and Chief Historian, HISTORY®, adds, “Jill’s commitment to providing students the skills they need to begin thinking and acting like historians in elementary school is exemplary. HISTORY is proud to join with the Gilder Lehrman Institute in recognizing Jill Szymanski as the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year.” 

This is the first time in the award’s ten-year history that an educator from Delaware will receive the national honor. Ms. Szymanski was selected by a panel of judges consisting of historians and education experts. Selection was based on the following criteria: at least three years of classroom teaching experience, a demonstrated commitment to teaching American history (may include state and local history), evidence of creativity and innovation in the classroom, and effective use of documents, artifacts, historic sites, oral histories, or other primary resources to engage students with American history. This year’s applicant pool comprised fifty-one state History Teacher of the Year winners, including winners from the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense schools.
Judges included Elaine Wrisley Reed, former executive director of the National Council for History Education; Joshua Bill, the 2012 National History Teacher of the Year winner; and Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University. 

Ms. Szymanski holds a Master of Education, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Delaware. She has co-authored signature lesson plans for the Social Studies Coalition of Delaware and serves as its district lead teacher. She also serves on Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Social Studies Curriculum Council and leads professional development history workshops for her colleagues.
The award ceremony will be held on October 21, 2013. Kenneth T. Jackson will present the award to Ms. Szymanski.