NHA is currently working with 14 NEH-funded summer professional development programs for teachers to document their impact. Though our final follow-up survey is still several months away, pre- and post-program surveys shed light on what drew educators to the workshops and what they found most valuable while there. The responses have been enlightening and have helped us understand how NEH-funded programs are fulfilling teachers’ needs and filling gaps in the curricula.
In addition to creating cohorts and teaching pedagogical methods, these programs steep teachers in American history and culture, helping them master new subjects. In an especially significant intervention, many of the programs provide teachers with access to underrepresented histories, making it possible for them to incorporate diverse American experiences into their classrooms.
At Historic Hudson Valley, teachers learn about the history of slavery in the North in conversation with experts and through place-based learning experiences at Philipsburg Manor and in New York City. Reflecting on a stand-out moment, one participant wrote:
The walking tour was such a powerful experience for me because I realized what a poor job NYC does of treating the history of enslavement. There is only one marker to this history created by the city as the African Burial Grounds is a federal site. That realization led me to research other African burial grounds in NYC and consider what more I can do personally to ensure that the stories of the enslaved people whose labor literally built this city are told.
Across programs, participants note that they are being given access to research and ways of understanding history that had been previously inaccessible to them. For instance, the program hosted by the New-York Historical Society, “American Women in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars,” drew praise for providing teachers with unprecedented access to women’s history, including giving them access to the many primary sources held by the society. One participant reflected:
Having so many scholars sharing the most recent scholarship on women in U.S. history was invaluable. As someone who finished graduate school in 1990, it was heartening to see how much the field has progressed and how many resources I have available to me to bring more women's stories into my own teaching
Notably, programs specializing in Native American history were praised for making that history accessible to Indigenous teachers and students. Faculty at Montana State University Billings strove to incorporate diverse Indigenous perspectives into an exploration of “The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Great Sioux War.” Following the program, one participant reflected that “Revisiting the history of my people left me energized and challenged to add new perspectives of our history and to include women’s roles in the battles.” Another wrote:
My school is 80% native and is a 20-minute drive from the Battle of the Little Bighorn Battle. I feel that this conference has given me the confidence and broader knowledge to incorporate these stories into my curriculum.
NEH summer professional development programs do more than interest teachers in a historical site or event. They are unique opportunities for teachers to engage with scholars and other cultural experts. As diverse histories are increasingly explored in academic research and curricula, it is ever more important that this work makes its way into elementary and secondary classrooms. NEH funding ensures that it has the chance to do so.
Do you know a teacher who could benefit from these programs? The application process for 2020 is now open.
Thumbnail image: Teachers in a summer professional development program at Historic Hudson Valley explore a historic site. Image courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley.