History teachers travel to Washington on grant

SUWANEE -- After 24 years of teaching U.S. history, Sally Blackwell will soon fulfill her dream of visiting the nation's capital.

Blackwell, a teacher at Mill Creek High School, is among a group of more than 30 Gwinnett County history teachers traveling to Washington, D.C., on Monday for an educational field trip.

The trip is part of a professional development program funded by a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Gwinnett County Public Schools won the nearly $1 million grant for a three-year program designed to increase teachers' knowledge of the economic themes in U.S. history.

In Washington, D.C., the teachers will hear lectures from history experts, visit historical sites and museums, learn about educational resources available to teachers and meet with members of Congress.

Most of the teachers, many of whom describe themselves as "history nerds," have been to D.C. before.

"I'm excited to see D.C. with an economic lens," said Jerilyn Hyndman, a Dacula High teacher. "Every time I've been in the past, it's been with a historical lens."

Delores Dalton, a Duluth High teacher, said she's most excited about traveling with other history teachers.

"I'll be surrounded by individuals who can appreciate the opportunity," she said.

The teachers going on the trip just finished a week of lectures and field trips to places such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. As they learn, they're also brainstorming ways to incorporate the information into lessons and units, which will be shared with teachers throughout the district, said Joel Volpi, who teaches at Collins Hill High.

The reflection and collaboration with other teachers provides an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the material, said Brooks Baggett, a Lanier High teacher.

"We're such an autonomous profession by nature that any chance (we get) to work with other professionals, we eat it up," he said.

Debbie Daniell, the school system's director of social studies, said the professional development project is designed not only to enhance teachers' knowledge of U.S. history but also to improve student achievement.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for these outstanding U.S. history teachers, and the information that they will receive will be part of enhancing teaching and learning for all of their students," she said.