Preserve America History’s Teacher of the Year

08/23/2010  |  CHELSEA VAN DER GAAG
teacher recognition

How do American history teachers bring facts to life? Do they pass around primary source documents and discuss them in context with historical events? Do they dress in period clothing and recite a monologue from a play that demonstrates the trials and tribulations of people of times past? Such classroom practices are not necessarily commonplace, and many times these memorable and cherished teachers do not receive the recognition that they so greatly deserve.

The Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award aims to do just that, on both the state and national level. A $1,000 prize is issued to winning teachers in every state. Each state winner is submitted into the national competition for a $10,000 award. In addition, each teacher receives a collection of teaching materials for their school.

Nominations, submitted on the teacher’s behalf, are collected from colleagues and students alike. “There is no better testament to a teacher’s skill than the approval of their students and fellow colleagues,” says Lesley Hermann, executive director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the nonprofit educational organization that administers and co-sponsors the award.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a past presenter of the Preserve America History Teacher of the Year award.

The nomination process is only the first step. Teachers who are nominated must then submit a packet of materials and supporting documents that demonstrate their unique teaching methods.

What separates the lions from the lambs? To qualify for the award, individuals must also show evidence of creativity and imagination in their lesson plans, addressing literacy and content beyond state standards, while also incorporating primary documents, artifacts, and historic sites. Above all, teachers must demonstrate a deep career commitment to teaching American history. “It is with great honor that we present these dedicated and inspiring teachers with the Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award. Their dedication to excellence has made them leaders in their field, transforming the art of learning,” says James Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, “and their exemplary achievements show the next generation of teachers new heights of engagement.”

The Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award is cosponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, Preserve America, and History TM. Established in 2004, the award has been presented to over 300 teachers to date. The national award is on the horizon for this coming fall. Selection of the national winner will take place in October, with a national ceremony soon to follow. Previous presenters have been illustrious individuals such as current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former First Lady Laura Bush. While this year’s award presenter has not yet been announced, anticipation is building.

State Winners in the Southeast

West Virginia

James Andrew Wendt

Nitro High School

Nitro, WV

Colleagues of Nitro High School’s James Andrew Wendt praise his use of a multitude of primary sources in his instruction of American history and describe his work in the classroom as “cutting-edge.” In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Wendt has served his school district and community through service on professional committees, participation in professional development, and leadership in community service projects. Among other awards and honors, he is the recipient of a James Madison Memorial Fellowship. Wendt’s students participate in “A Classroom that Spans Continents,” a project in which they study American history and the role of the United State in the world with a sister school in Germany.


James Percoco

West Springfield High School

Springfield, VA

James Percoco has been teaching at West Springfield High School for the last thirty years. He also holds the position of Adjunct Professor at American University. Percoco is most proud of his Applied History course. Students in the course study historic preservation and public history and then complete internships at historic sites in the Washington, D.C. area. He is the author of several books, including Summers with Lincoln: Looking for the Man in the Monuments (2008), and serves on a number of historical boards and committees including the Advisory Board of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Humanities Council/Advisory Board of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Project.

North Carolina

Scott Culclasure

American Hebrew Academy

Greensboro, NC

Scott Culclasure’s commitment to the instruction of American history has spanned his thirty-year career in education. He is a National Board Certified Teacher and a member of several professional organizations, including the American Historical Association. Cuclasure holds a Ph.D from the University of North Carolina and is the author of several publications, including the book In Every Good Work: A History of First Baptist Church, Greensboro, North Carolina (2009). Culclasure teaches an Advanced History Seminar at the American Hebrew Academy in which students prepare a research paper using primary sources from the Library of Congress. He is known at his school as a true “historian” and engages his students in careful and thoughtful analysis of the past. 

South Carolina

Jeffrey Eargle

Mid-Carolina High School

Prosperity, SC

Jeffrey Eargle teaches all levels of American history at Mid-Carolina High School. He is a leader in using technology in his classroom and has introduced his school to numerous databases of primary sources. He is committed to teaching his students about the history of South Carolina as part of his U.S. history instruction. Eargle has been instrumental in garnering grants for his school and writing its United States history curriculum, in addition to serving on various committees. He is a National Board Certified Teacher who has brought his students to “high levels of success.” 


Tom Glaser

Mater Academy Middle/High School

Hialeah Gardens, FL

Tom Glaser currently teaches Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment American history courses at Mater Academy. He is also an Adjunct Professor of History at Florida International University. Glaser is active in the National Council for the Social Studies and their local Florida chapters and has been a presenter and participant at many conferences and professional development seminars. He serves as a mentor to new teachers and encourages them to build their experience in American history outside of the classroom. One fellow teacher noted Glaser’s mastery of his subject by stating that “his knowledge of American history is as extensive as his experience in teaching it.”


Rebecca Bidwell

E.B. Erwin High School

Birmingham, AL

Rebecca Bidwell’s commitment to history education led her to implement an Advanced Placement United States History class at her school. Her classes have access to local historical sites as well as outside speakers, such as local veterans. Her courses provide “opportunities for students to work collaboratively to debate United States history.” She is a sponsor for a number of student programs and was the recipient of a grant to help Alabama history students write and publish their own textbook.


Nicole Hall-Mitchell

Destrehan High School

Destrehan, LA

Nicole Hall-Mitchell’s tenth- and eleventh-grade students are learning historical research firsthand. Hall-Mitchell recently received the Greater New Orleans Community Foundation-Norco Community grant to document the local St. Charles Parish during World War II. Her students have visited local historical sites and met with community members to collect and analyze artifacts, oral histories and documents. The project will result in a website hosted by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Hall-Mitchell is a mentor to student teachers and shares her “rigor and relevance in her American history classes.”


Ashley Adkins

Paducah Tighman High School

Paducah, KY

Ashley Adkins is a successful teacher of U.S. History and Advanced Placement United States History at Paducah Tilghman High School. She brings an interdisciplinary approach to teaching American history with the American studies course that she co-teaches, which combines history and literature. Her students complete projects on topics ranging from Ellis Island to local Kentucky history and create exhibits that answer “essential questions” of American history through the use of primary sources. She is involved in many committees and student programs outside of the classroom and exemplifies an “expertise at the craft of teaching.” 


Scott Shaddox

Omaha High School

Omaha, AR

Scott Shaddox has seventeen years of teaching experience in the Arkansas public school system. His “dynamic” lessons in his American history classes integrate the use of technology, particularly a SMART Board, to demonstrate primary sources. He has inspired some of his students to go on to major in history in college and become history teachers themselves. Shaddox also serves as the Student Council sponsor, leading students in school government and community service projects.


Janet Barger

North Forsyth High School

Cumming, GA

Janet Barger’s commitment to American history is clear both inside and outside the classroom. Barger has an extensive historical artifact collection in her classroom that she uses throughout her lessons and student projects. Her students are introduced to guest speakers and conduct oral histories with family members who experienced the Great Depression or World War II. Barger also brings her experience in the local historical community into the classroom. She is a member of the Lumpkin County Historical Society and was recently appointed to the Board of Directors. She also serves as a docent at a local museum run by the society. Barger is a member of the Atlanta Historical Society, the Organization of American Historians, and serves as a reader for the AP United States History exam.


Julie Heintz

Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science

Columbus, MS

Julie Heintz’s students are immersed in state history through the interdisciplinary project “Sights and Sounds of Mississippi.” Heintz and the Performance Arts Director at her school lead the project, which makes the connection between the history and music of Mississippi. The project culminates in a three-day program of trips to local historic sites and multimedia student performances. Heintz is a National Board Certified Teacher and an Adjunct Instructor of History at the Mississippi University for Women. She has previously been recognized as an outstanding teacher by organizations such as the Mississippi Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her Historic Blocks of Columbus project was recognized by the History Channel’s Save Our History program in 2006.


Mark Scott

East High School

Memphis, TN

Mark Scott has been a leader in the classroom for over twenty years. He conducts district-wide professional development and has volunteered and served as a docent at local libraries and historic sites. Scott’s students are currently leading a major historic preservation project to save the Presidents Island One Room Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was used by sharecroppers in the early 20th century and remained a working school until the early 1960s. Scott’s students have enlisted officials in the school district, local government and the community in a plan to move the schoolhouse to the East High School campus and turn it into a museum. 

For a full list of the state winners for 2010, go to
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