Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recognizing Great Teaching

The winners of the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award for best teacher of Montana history and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of Montana History Teacher of the Year were both announced recently.

Tonja Brewer, a fourth grade teacher from Roundup Central Elementary School, is the winner of the 2015 Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award. This award recognizes Montana history teachers who engage their students in active learning, convey a passion for teaching Montana history and recognize our state's cultural diversity in their Montana history class. Tonja and her fourth graders will travel to Helena for a November 6 ceremony in the state capitol. 

Billings elementary school librarian Ruth Ferris was chosen by Gilder-Lehrman for their Montana History Teacher of the Year Award. They were looking for someone who "teaches thoughtful and creative United States history" (including "state and local history") and "effectively uses primary sources to engage students in American history." Ruth fits that description to to a T and has taught me a lot about how kids learn. We've tapped into her expertise for several Montana Historical Society lesson plans. She's the author of

  • Montana’s State Flower: A Lesson in Civic Engagement (Designed for 4th-7th). This seven-period unit introduces students to the electoral process while providing an opportunity to develop research skills and to explore historical newspapers. By organizing an election for class flower, students will learn about the electoral process and experience civic engagement first hand while practicing such Common Core skills as close reading of complex texts and persuasive writing;
  • Thinking Like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom (Designed for 4th-8th). Have students exercise their historical imaginations as while introducing them to the research, the richness of historic newspapers, and the social history of gold-rush era Montana;
  •  The mapping and Chronicling America lesson plans for Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan Study Guide (Designed for students 6-10). This study guide includes lesson plans, vocabulary, chapter summaries and questions, alignment to the Common Core, and other information to facilitate classroom use of Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan, as told to Margaret Ronan, edited by Ellen Baumler. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, this highly readable 222-page memoir details Mary Sheehan Ronan’s journey across the Great Plains, her childhood on the Colorado and Montana mining frontiers, her ascent to young womanhood in Southern California, her return to Montana as a young bride, and her life on the Flathead Indian Reservation as the wife of an Indian agent. 
Ruth is currently working on a primary-source-based lesson plan about Billings suffragist Hazel Hunkins and the fight for national women's suffrage. We hope it will be ready this fall and it promise to be fabulous, so stay tuned.

Congratulations to these dedicated teachers!

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