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High School Educators Sharpen Teaching Skills at Gilder Lehrman Seminar

LBJ School Professor Jeremi Suri Leads Weeklong Workshop Focusing on Historical Development of US Foreign Policy

Through a weeklong Gilder Lehrman seminar on American History, LBJ School and Department of History Professor Jeremi Suri helped 29 K-12 educators sharpen their teaching methods with lectures, readings and tours of historical archives and book collections.

Held July 29 through August 3, the seminar examined the historical development of American foreign policy. From the nation’s emergence as a world power in the late 19th century through the contemporary War on Terror, Suri led teachers and library instructors through America’s most transformative nation-building events.

2012 Gilder Lehrman Seminar participants The goal of the seminar, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, is to help bring new research and excitement about history into classrooms across the country, said Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs. The seminar was also sponsored in conjunction with the Institute for Historical Studies and the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts.

“Our best teachers need help encouraging student interest in the development, growth and improvement of our society,” Suri said. “This seminar helps teachers do this vital work and demonstrates our commitment as a world-class university to the public good across our society.”

Russ Williams, a teacher at the Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tenn., said he was excited by the opportunity to learn.

“I try to find ways in the summer that I can challenge myself as a student,” said Williams. “I feel like the best teachers are students themselves, and I saw this as an opportunity to be a student again and take my experience here back to my kids.”

According to Williams, Professor Suri’s lectures were his favorite part of the seminar.

“He’s so approachable and personable, and we know he has a great stature among the academic community, but he is also really down to earth,” said Williams. “You feel comfortable talking to him about things that are very complex.”

As part of the seminar, teachers were introduced to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Harry Ransom Center through tours of archives and book collections.

Amy Hunt, a high school history teacher from Riley, Texas, enjoyed discovering other resources at the university that she could share with her students and colleagues.

“I have been talking with the other teachers in my district who haven’t had the opportunity to come to UT about exposing them to resources that they could take into their classrooms as well,” Hunt said. “So it’s not just me and my kids that benefit. The whole community from my school benefits from the fact that I got to come to this seminar.”

The seminar was also open to library educators like Earl Price, who teaches on an air force base in the United Kingdom for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“One of the things I really enjoyed was being able to go to all of the libraries and be given access to all of the resources that the seminar has made us aware of,” Price said. “I wanted some great staff development, something I could relate to that would help me become a better teacher.”

Suri also added a new element to the professional development component of the course by asking teachers to explore social media.

“We used Twitter to awaken interest in social media as a teaching tool,” Suri said. “We exchanged ideas, articles and other teaching materials through Twitter.”

According to Suri, one of the goals of using Twitter in the seminar was to build a community that would outlast the seminar. Search #GLI2012 to follow the conversation. Download a PDF of the seminar syllabus.

In 2012, the Gilder Lehrman Foundation will offer more than 1,000 educators the chance to study American history with leading historians at top institutions throughout the United States and United Kingdom. Since the program’s inception, more than 7,000 educators have participated in Gilder Lehrman seminars.