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Interview with Wesley Hedgepeth, New NCSS Board Member

Wesley Hedgepeth

Q: Congratulations on being elected as a member of the NCSS Board of Directors, where your term will begin on July 1, 2018. Tell us where you work, what you focus on at work, and what your background in education is.

A: I have been an educator for nine years, with experience teaching in both public and private high schools. I received both my Bachelor and Master’s degrees from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and maintain a Postgraduate Professional Teaching License from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently, I teach IB Global Politics and Contemporary World History Honors at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to teaching, I coordinate our Global Engagement Program, both planning and leading international exchanges. I also coordinate our Model United Nations Program, preparing students for multiple conferences each year, as well as hosting our own annual conference.

Q: When did you first hear about NCSS, and what drew you to join this association?

A: I first learned about NCSS as a preservice teacher. My social studies methods professor, Michele Cude of James Madison University, suggested to my classmates and I that we join both the Virginia Council of the Social Studies, as well as NCSS. As a beginning teacher I was initially drawn to the NCSS because of the lesson planning support and resources it provided.

Q: What, do you think, are the two or three most valuable things that NCSS offers to educators today?

A: (1) NCSS’s Annual Conference is by far the most valuable opportunity the association provides. It allows educators to attend sessions that deliver best practices and lesson plans that teachers can implement immediately in their classroom. Keynote speakers and museum visits offer educators a new perspective on relevant social studies topics.  In addition, the conference allows for invaluable networking opportunities with other professionals from all over the world. Lastly, attending an NCSS Annual Conference provides educators the opportunity to explore and learn from a different community, in a different city. In 2018, it will be held in Chicago, November 30 to December 2.

(2) NCSS treats educators as professionals. The Teacher of the Year program, among other awards, recognizes and validates outstanding educators K through 6, middle level, and secondary.

(3) The organization values input from all stakeholders and works towards elevating not only the social studies, but the education profession as a whole. The online resources, webinars and forums populated by members allows for educators to share advocacy plans, classroom ideas, professional development opportunities, etc. For example, any member can blog at connected.socialstudies.org/participate/blog-guidelines.

Q: What do you perceive to be the biggest challenge today for social studies educators?

A: Our world needs more civil discourse, and social studies educators are the civility engineers. It is our task to model for our students the idea that civility and differences do and should coexist. Whether we are preparing our kids for college, career or civic life, we must continue to model this civility. While doing this, we must not shy away from sensitive topics; rather, we must consistently address these issues head-on with thorough research and discussion. Students should understand the idea of loyal opposition.

Q: What suggestions do you have for improving or advancing the field of social studies?

A: Advocacy is the answer. We need elected officials to hear our stories. The only way we can effect change is to make it personal.  I encourage educators to be on a first name basis with their elected officials—or better yet—to run for office themselves!

Q: Finally, is there a person that inspired you to enter the field of education and/or social studies? If so, please tell us about that.

A: The entries in my elementary school journals remind me that I have always wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I figured out exactly what I wanted to study. I was the most inspired by my AP United States government teacher, Mr. Frank Whipp. I was in his class during the 2000 Presidential Election, which was a particularly exciting year to be learning government. His humor and his passion for all things politics ignited a curiosity in me that persists. He made me want to try it out for myself, and I haven’t looked back since.

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