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Civil War Trust’s Teacher Institute

Days 1 & 2 (July 14 & 15, 2016)

Once I completed my first week as a graduate assistant at Historic Sandusky, I just assumed that the rest of the year would be as routine as the first week. I expected to only transcribe, give tours, and do small projects here and there. I didn’t realize the world of opportunities and doors Sandusky would open for me until recently.

In late June, our Director, Greg Starbuck, informed me of an opportunity to attend The Civil War Trust’s Teacher Institute in Richmond. I was all for it. It was going to be a great opportunity to network, share ideas with other teachers, and get advice from professionals. The only catch was that the institute was strictly for social studies or history educators and that doesn’t accurately describe me.

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Science Education therefore, I have a background in education. I also work at Historic Sandusky and have some experience in History but, I wasn’t sure if that’s what the Civil War Trust meant by History educator. I decided to go anyways and to my surprise, during the welcome dinner, I met a high school teacher from Utah who taught both Biology and U.S. History. There were also other museum docents and educators so, I no longer felt like an anomaly.

The Institute was hosted at the Omni Richmond Hotel from July 14th through the 17th. On the night of the14th, there was a welcome dinner, orientation, and social. The 15th was dedicated to workshops and lectures. I attended three workshops; Using Art to Teach the American Revolution by Jim Percoco, Locating and Evaluating Civil War Primary Sources for the Classroom by John Michael Priest, and Civil War Navies-Brown and Blue Water Warfare by Dan Korn. I found the workshops to be very useful both for my job at Sandusky and for teaching in a traditional classroom setting.

The most valuable workshop for me was the workshop on using art to teach and evaluating primary sources. Percoco discussed, in his workshop, that different people can paint a picture of the same scene and convey different messages based on their perspectives but, just because they’re portraying the same scene doesn’t make them all historically accurate. The theme of historical accuracy continued in Priest’s workshop on Civil War primary sources. Priest explained that just because someone wrote a memoir, article, or even a textbook doesn’t mean that the information is historically accurate. This theme is very useful for me as an educator for Sandusky because it pushes me to evaluate the sources I use to create lesson plans more critically. Now, I consider the author’s biases and question whether or not the narrator truly existed or participated in an event.

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