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President's Message: Bon Bons and Binge TV

“It must be nice to have your summers off!”

(OK, go ahead and insert your cringe worthy eye roll here.)

We’ve all heard this before, and I suspect many (if not most) of you hear it more than a few times yearly. While everyone else believes that teachers spend their summers eating bon bons and binge-watching shows that they were unable to watch during the academic year, teachers know that this premise could not be farther from the truth.

From social media posts, I have seen colleagues immersed in Gilder Lehrman, NEH, or TAH programs. You’ve attended seminars and institutes with the Society of the Cincinnati, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the White House Teacher Institute, FTE Economics workshops, Ford’s Theater, and Fort Ticonderoga to name a few. Many of you continued to a second, third, fourth (or more) PD activity with the Library of Congress, Stratford Hall, the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, the National WWII Teacher Institute, C-SPAN Educators’ Conference, Civil Rights Educators’ Institute, the National Museum for Women in the Arts, and the NCSS offered Religious Studies Institute, Summer Leadership Institute, or IDM Institute.

Some also chose to take the “road less traveled” and not participate in a formal PD program. Instead you were busy making your own PD: traveling to places like Belgium, Russia, Ireland, or South America and visiting museums or historical sites of interest. You’ve been busy writing manuscripts, books, or articles for publication, curriculum, conference proposals or teaching a summer class.

In short, you took yourself off that couch.

My summer? Within a week of the school year ending, I embarked on an amazing month of teaching and learning with five summer PD adventures of my own. My first opportunity was to attend the Korean War Digital History (KWDH) Conference in Charleston as both a participant and as the keynote speaker for a group of over 75 teachers and Korean War Veterans. It was amazing.

Less than 36 hours after my return, I left again, this time to participate with 14 new friends and group leader “TOP Dad” Bruce Damasio as part of a Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) study tour showcasing various educational, historical, and cultural aspects of Germany. Even now, I am still working to unwrap the many layers from this experience.

Summer then became “history in my backyard.” NCSS partnered with Colonial Williamsburg to offer a Summer Leadership Institute that studied leadership through the lens of the 18th century. Close to 30 participants from as far away as China worked to develop their own leadership qualities while networking with other state councils and leaders to share best practices.

The Center for American Studies at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA hosted my final PD opportunities for the summer. I was fortunate to help facilitate two workshops: “American Representative Government: Jamestowne to the 21st Century,” (Jamestowne in its historic spelling) and “African American History: 1619 to the 21st Century” where participants learned by means of lectures, museum/site visits, and primary source activities. These workshops are “hidden gems” in the myriad of available PD opportunities.

As I write this, many of you have already returned or are preparing to return to your respective school divisions for a new year. Summer may have ended, but the PD opportunities have not. Take the energy and enthusiasm that you showed in the summer and continue it throughout the year by attending your state conference, regional conference, or some type of workshop in your field. Continue learning. And while you’re at it, take a moment to thank your colleague, department chair, administrator, or supervisor for their tireless work in making certain you are aware of the various PD opportunities that are out there. A special shout out to the members of CS4 – the Council for State Social Studies Specialists - for their comprehensive PD list that was developed last winter and posted to various outlets for teachers to use. If you have worthy additions to their list, please feel free to contact me at and I will pass your information on to them.

John F. Kennedy once said, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  Most teachers that I know are the leaders who spend their summers taking advantage of various learning opportunities to be the best educator for the children in their classroom. Thank you for being this type of leader.

I now return you to your bon bons and binge tv. Have a great school year!