For the past three years, the department of history at The University of Arizona and the Tucson Unified School District have worked together to help middle school teachers teach American history. For UA history graduate students, the experience has offered some valuable lessons about the importance of outreach.
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the UA and TUSD a grant for almost $1 million 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 served more than 200 teachers and 5,000 students through the grant. 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 history faculty members Karen Anderson, Benjamin Irvin, Katherine Morrissey, Michael Rembis and Michael Schaller.
While the UA participated to help improve public school education, one of the biggest unanticipated advantages has been how the grant allowed UA graduate students to play a key role as interns and mentors to the TUSD middle school teachers. The students have met bi-weekly with lead teachers 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," said Morrissey. "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."
The graduate students who have worked as interns in the program 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," Jagodinsky said. "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," said Colon. "As a former high school teacher, I feel lucky to have been part of this grant."
Prendergast concurred. "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 13-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 Wednesday, Feb. 4, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Rincon High School's Little Theater, 421 North Arcadia Blvd. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be served.
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 history department and TUSD are applying for a new three-year, Teaching American History grant from the Department of Education to extend their partnership. The new grant would specifically target 5th grade teachers and classrooms.