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Meet our 2017 Outstanding Social Studies Teachers of the Year

Three of the nation’s most outstanding social studies teachers will receive the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) 2017 Teacher of the Year Award on Friday, Nov. 17 at the Welcome Breakfast of the 97th NCSS Annual Conference in San Francisco. The awardees are:

Kathryn A. Hunter, a teacher at Minnesauke Elementary School, East Setauket, New York

Erin Glenn, a teacher at East Lake Academy of Fine Arts Middle School in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Ryan New, a teacher at Boyle County High School in Danville, Kentucky

Each will be honored with an award of $2,500 and a commemorative gift at the Conference Welcome Breakfast on Friday, Nov. 17 at the Moscone Center. The Newseum will sponsor the award for the Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year.

The annual NCSS Teacher of the Year awards recognize exceptional social studies teachers from grades K-6, 5-8, and 7-12. The criteria for nomination require documentation that demonstrates exceptional abilities in seven specific categories. Some of these abilities include developing or using instructional materials creatively and effectively; incorporating innovative instructional strategies and techniques; demonstrating the ability to foster a spirit of inquiry; and fostering the development of democratic beliefs and values, and the skills needed for the students to become effective citizens, learn more here. 

Outstanding Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year

Kathryn A. Hunter is a second career teacher with classroom experience spans 14 years. Prior to teaching she worked in Washington as a Legislative Aide to U.S. House Rep. Robert Jan Mrazek and for the American Physical Therapy Association pursuing direct access and educational funding legislation. She believes that every child and teacher is able and capable of transcending present challenges and accomplishing great things, and said:

“I love being an elementary school teacher and I am in love with the subject of social studies because of all the hope and possibilities it creates for our students.”

Hunter engages her students in active learning experiences grounded on this belief. For example, during the Flint Michigan water crisis, her students engaged in “Operation Clean Water” and raised $940.50 that they sent to the Genesee County United Way. Another special teaching moment was when students were awakened to the social issue of homelessness after reading "Hold Fast" by Blue Balliett, and researched and found that there were 21,000 homeless children living in shelters in New York City. Through “Operation Hold Fast” each student raised 1,000 pennies. Each penny represented a child. They called WOR radio and spoke with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 
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Outstanding Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year

Erin Glenn, a National Board Certified Teacher, considers that as an educator:

“... I am responsible for teaching students how to think, not simply what to think, an understanding that will ensure their preparedness for life beyond the classroom.”

Based on this belief, Glenn’s instruction is driven by the overarching ideal that every student must be equipped with skills to problem solve, critically think, evaluate evidence and prove real-life application of classroom instruction. To actively engage her students, Glenn embeds project-based instruction and cooperative learning in their classroom studies.

Found in her use of empathy maps, she provides opportunities for students to evaluate historic events from a humanistic perspective. Integrated in their exploration of Shays Rebellion and the Trail of Tears, students are provided guiding questions to evaluate history through multiple lenses. Recognizing the need to foster a spirit of inquiry, she also facilitates classroom debates, one of which, engaged students in their understanding of the preamble to the Constitution. Students gathered and evaluated evidence to determine, “if we have achieved a more perfect union?” Their inquiry began in small groups and concluded with a court room styled classroom debate where students used current events to support or refute this ideal. 
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Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year

Ryan New believes that gaining knowledge through investigation, inquiry-based learning, is the cornerstone to students broadening their understandings of themselves and the world. Using the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), a distinctive approach to creating instructional materials inspired by the NCSS College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, New has developed lessons that enable his students to take control of their own learning, learn to ask questions, utilize sources to derive answers, and communicate their findings and/or take action.

“The process of inquiry is transformative, my role as teacher is not that of holder and provider of knowledge, but rather that of guide in helping every student unlock the messiness of finding out the world for themselves,” said New. 

Throughout the year, New’s students keep a digital portfolio and track reflections and evolving understandings about taking informed action in their class, community, state, and nation. The compelling question, “What makes a good citizen?” has resulted in motivating them to become involved in everything from planning their school’s Veteran’s Day assembly, to helping the local health department inform the community about their new needle exchange program, to participating in the Women’s March the day after the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. 
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The NCSS Annual Conference is the largest and most comprehensive social studies professional development conference where social studies educators share, interact, develop ideas, and enhance their skills. This year’s theme, Expanding Visions/Bridging Traditions, will offer more than 900 content-rich sessions covering all subjects and grade levels, a lineup of renowned speakers and education experts, and numerous exhibiting organizations displaying the latest in educational resources.
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About the Secondary Teacher of the Year Award sponsor: The Newseum promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Headquartered on historic Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., the Newseum’s compelling, dynamic and engaging exhibits, programs and education initiatives help ensure that these fundamental freedoms remain strong and protected both today and for future generations. NewseumED teaches roughly 26,000 students on-site each year and reaches about 9 million students online with free content related to media literacy, history, civics and the First Amendment.