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Jeremi Suri leads innovative Gilder Lehrman Institute Seminar for K-12 Teachers at UT Austin

Posted: July 16, 2013
Participants in the Gilder Lehrman Institute, June 24-28, including Profs. Jeremi Suri and Joan Neuberger. Photo by Sean Patrick, LBJ School.

Participants in the Gilder Lehrman Institute, June 24-28, including Profs. Jeremi Suri and Joan Neuberger. Photo by Sean Patrick, LBJ School.

In June, The University of Texas at Austin hosted a group of 23 secondary school teachers from around the United States, including two from Texas. The teachers participated in a week-long seminar aimed at bringing new research and excitement about history into classrooms. The program supports skilled teachers and it helps them to provide their students with a deep, rigorous, and relevant understanding of America’s past. This is the second year that the university has been chosen to host this nationally recognized program.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, a New York-based non-profit organization devoted to improving history education, generously funded the summer workshop. Local co-sponsors offered crucial staff assistance, facilities, and enrichment. The co-sponsors included the major historical institutions around Austin: UT’s Department of History, the Institute for Historical Studies, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, the LBJ Presidential Library, Humanities Texas, the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, and the Harry Ransom Center.

Professor Jeremi Suri, holder of the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs and a professor of history and public affairs, lectured to the teachers and led workshops with them each day.  History professors Erika M. Bsumek and Mark Atwood Lawrence delivered well-received guest presentations for the visiting teachers.  Joan Neuberger, Professor of History and Editor of the public history web site Not Even Past, and LBJ School Dean Robert Hutchings also joined the teachers for two spirited lunch discussions.  The week-long sessions focused on the history of “U.S. Foreign Relations,” particularly the key events in America’s emergence as a world power during the late nineteenth century, and the continued transformations in American society and policy through two world wars, the Cold War, and the early twenty-first century. Sessions analyzed major conceptual issues, such as national security, imperialism, decolonization, nation-building, democratization, and fiscal (in)solvency.

One of the highlights of the program was its emphasis on introducing participants to archival materials from various locations on campus, including our partners at the LBJ Presidential Library, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.  This focus on primary sources and archival materials was aimed at demonstrating to teachers how they can incorporate these resources into their teaching, giving students a first-hand opportunity to interpret the history they study.  Katie Schnittker from Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas described some of the hands-on activities in the archives.

 “We learned a whole lot and got to see the interesting artifacts and resources available in the university archives, such as Congressional letters and poster-sized political cartoons at the Blanton,” said Schnittker.

In addition to lectures and hands-on experiences in the archives, teachers were also asked to present possible lesson plans using the sources they examined during the workshop.  Lauren Taylor, from Weiner High School in Arkansas, highlighted the usefulness of these activities.

 “I was a first-year teacher and this was such a great experience, especially learning how to break down documents from the archives and focusing on different strategies for introducing them to my students,” said Taylor.

Professor Suri discussed the importance of emphasizing research and inquiry in teaching about history at the high-school level.

“This workshop is a great example of how our research and teaching on campus add enormously to the public experience for citizens in Texas and other states,” said Suri. “This workshop is part of our broader effort at the university to train the future leaders of our society. Our future leaders will need high-quality history education in their local schools.”

Professor Suri also encouraged participants to tweet out their experiences and interact with one another and the archival institutions of the university in social media. Tweets and photos were aggregated in a Storify piece at https://storify.com/TheLBJSchool/2013-gilder-lehrman-institute-seminar.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute has asked the university to host another class of teachers in the third annual workshop in June 2014.

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Related:

"2013 Gilder Lehrman Institute Seminar," in Life & Letters, from the College of Liberal Arts.
http://lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu/2013/07/k-12-teachers-enhance-history-curriculum-gather-new-research-at-gilder-lehrman-seminar/

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