Virginia Tech partners on grant to provide professional development for area history teachers

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 18, 2005 – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded four area school divisions with a three-year grant totaling almost $1 million to provide for the continued professional development of U.S. history teachers in four urban, suburban and rural school districts.

As the lead local education agent, Roanoke City Public Schools partnered with Roanoke County Public Schools, Salem Public Schools, and Floyd County Public Schools to submit the grant application, entitled “Perspectives, Identity, Legacy: Democracy in American History Education.” Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and Radford University will partner with these school systems.

The Virginia Tech contribution will include presenters at monthly seminars, graduate courses in history, and technical assistance. “We see this as an excellent opportunity to build collaborative relationships with Roanoke region schools and to draw upon Virginia Tech's strengths in history, social studies education, and the application of instructional technology,” said Tom Ewing, associate professor of history. Ewing and David Hicks, associate professor in the School of Education, are on the executive committee for the grant.

On Monday, Nov. 21, at 12:30 p.m. in Room 212 at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, the participating school systems will officially announce the award of this grant. Superintendents and School Board members from each school system will attend this event. Area elected officials, including members of City Council and the Board of Supervisors, state delegates, and U.S. congressmen, will also be invited.

The $993,060 grant, which focuses on the professional development of U.S. history teachers in grades 4-7 and grade 11, will allow these teachers “to keep current with strong, data-driven, evaluative professional development programs, so we are better able to improve the educational offerings our students receive in the classroom,” explains B. Scott Crawford, K-12 Social Studies Coordinator for Roanoke City Public Schools.

Supporting museums include the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, Smithfield Plantation, the Salem Museum and Historical Society, and the History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia.

Activities for participating teachers include a graduate-level summer seminar, five seminars each semester for the life of the grant, evening workshops, media research, and field study. Topics examine Early America, Expansion, Reform, Civil War and Reconstruction, the Emergence of Modern America and World Conflict, the United States Since World War II, the Impact of Geography and Economics, and the Civics and Roots of American Democracy.

Teachers will interact with each of these time periods by accessing primary source documents and rare digital resources. In fact, a major emphasis of this grant is to support digital history, which involves archiving large amounts of primary sources for historical information on the Internet so that the information becomes accessible to teachers, students and the general public.

WDBJ-TV 7 has provided a unique means of supporting this digital initiative. The Roanoke-based CBS affiliate uncovered local news footage from the 1950s and 1960s which was then turned over to the University of Virginia to be digitized and placed online. According to Crawford, “because we had access to this treasure trove of news stories from the `50s and `60s, we decided to focus our first teacher seminar on the Civil Rights movement. So through this rare local lens, we’re better able to understand our community’s perspective when examining our nation’s history.”

Teachers participating in the educational seminars will use this footage and other samples of digital history to create original research projects, which will be published on a web site and downloaded into student classrooms to aid in the instruction of U.S. history.