The Center hosts inaugural Teaching Fellowship presented by R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation
Authors: Kate Moore & Nicole Moore
Being an educator today is challenging work. Over the past few years, we have seen states across the nation pass legislation around “divisive concepts” in the classroom. Book challenges in 2022 increased 842% compared to 2020. To continue teaching truthful history in such a divisive era, our teachers need support, recognition, and inspiration.
The current educational climate led us to our challenge: What if we could work directly with teachers to enhance their understanding of our shared history and empower them to teach honest history?
This summer that simple “what if” became a reality thanks to a generous grant from the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation.
In June, twenty-five K-12 educators from across the state of Georgia joined The Center’s Education department and an impressive lineup of experts for a week-long in person institute. During this week, we challenged educators to thoughtfully examine how they teach the civil rights movement, what sources they use, what voices they center, and whose voices are being left out.
We often take for granted that teachers are subject matter experts in all areas they teach. That is not always the case; for instance, a social studies teacher is more often an educational expert than an historian. With this in mind, we realized that it is important to provide deep and enriching learning experiences for educators. We wanted them to read about histories they have never heard before, learn where and how to access sources they have never seen before, engage with some of the most highly regarded historians in the field, and hear the words of those who lived through history and came out on the other side to share their stories with us.
To these ends, The Center was proud to work with Dr. Hasan K. Jeffries, who served as our scholar-in-residence for the weeklong institute. Dr. Jeffries is one of the country’s preeminent civil rights historians and has helped educators across the country grapple with teaching hard history. He was joined by Dr. Vicki Crawford, Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, who spoke to Fellows about the important roles of women in the movement. Dr. Crawford also facilitated one of the most powerful moments of the week when she interviewed civil rights activist, civil servant, entrepreneur, scholar, and educator Dr. Georgianne Thomas. Public Historian and educator Dr. Christopher Lawton inspired Fellows to let their students get hands-on with history through an insightful review of his student-led public history projects in Putnam County and across Georgia. Sarah Tanner, Head of the Archives Research Center, and Tiffany Atwater Lee, Head of Research Services, at the Atlanta University Center’s Robert Woodruff Library reviewed how to successfully search and engage with archives. They also encouraged Fellows to examine how their students work, in and out of the classroom, is part of the archival record.
We met the first part of our challenge by providing our participants with a rich educational experience during the institute, but this was just the start of a year-long journey for our Fellows. They will meet regularly throughout the school year and serve as members of The Center’s Education Advisory Committee.
By supporting participants throughout the school year, we will rise to the challenge of empowering them to teach honest history. We look forward to watching as they build their own community of like-minded educators who understand the day-to-day work, who recognize The Center as a resource to support them, and who strive to help students critically analyze history and become engaged citizens in their own right.