At Keene Middle School, Sean O’Mara is making history tangible for his eighth grade students. For the last three years, he’s brought his classes to the Wyman Tavern Museum, maintained by the Historical Society of Cheshire County. Dressed in period costume, the students act out the debate between Loyalists and Patriots that preceded the American Revolution. This is just one of the many creative ways to teach history that earned O’Mara the New Hampshire Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award.
Plymouth State University and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, a leading private institute of American history, announced the award on September 20. The SAU 29 teacher was selected from a number of highly qualified teachers by a panel of historians and history educators from across New Hampshire.
Preserve America is a White House initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve America’s cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge of the nation’s past, and increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets. The History Teacher of the Year Award recognizes outstanding American history teachers and the crucial national role of American history education.
O’Mara notes that learning history should be “an ongoing interaction between students and their world.” He continues, “The active and imaginative study of history can help empower students to think critically, to look at the world around them with curiosity, and to encourage them to take an active role in that world.”
John Krueckeberg, associate professor of history at Plymouth State, was selected by the Gilder Lehrman Institute to coordinate the award in New Hampshire. He points out, “An important part of the submission for the award includes video footage of the teacher at work. O’Mara’s video submission revealed his success in the 2004-05 school year at having students engage in the creation of museum-like displays. Putting the students on the spot, O’Mara quizzed them about their methods of inquiry, forays into researching the primary documents they selected and their purpose for assembling their histories as they chose. The judges for the Preserve America Award saw for themselves how O’Mara inspires his students as active historians.”
In addition to a plaque, O’Mara will receive a check for $1,000. The Gilder Lehrman Institute is also donating over a dozen books, high-quality reproductions of several primary documents, multimedia DVDs, subscriptions to four history journals and a collection of materials about Alexander Hamilton and the making of modern America to the Keene Middle School library, in O’Mara’s honor. The history discipline in Plymouth State’s Department of Social Sciences will present O’Mara with a book award at the New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies conference in Manchester on November 3.
This fall a committee in New York City and Washington, D.C., will select a national Preserve America History Teacher of the Year from among the state winners, such as Sean O’Mara. For more information contact John Krueckeberg at (603) 535-2332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
# # #