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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PSU grad is Kansas History Teacher of the Year

Deborah Shaffer is a storyteller. She is also the Kansas History Teacher of the Year. Shaffer, who teaches fifth grade at Guthridge Elementary School in Parsons, received the distinction recently from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Preserve America.

“I do believe that history is a story, and that I, as the teacher, am the storyteller,” Shaffer said. “As with any good story, it is full of characters, a plot, and a theme. That is what I try to do -- bring my stories to life whether by role playing in the classroom or through literacy books that I read to my students.”

Shaffer’s efforts to integrate history into other curriculum areas she teaches helped win her distinction, according to Glenn Wiebe, social studies curriculum consultant at the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas.

“In the current environment, it can be very easy for elementary teachers to focus only on math and reading skills,” Wiebe said. “Debbie has chosen to take the extra time and effort to integrate language arts and historical content into her daily classroom activities. Students leave her class with a broad understanding of historical concepts and skills that will form the foundation for future learning and active participation in American history.”

Shaffer earned her bachelor of arts degree in communications from Ottawa University and her elementary education certification and master’s degree in history from Pittsburg State University. She was a participant in eHIKES (Enhancing History Instruction for Kansas Educators and Students), a program directed by PSU History Professor Kelly Woestman, that seeks to increase historical knowledge and skills of middle school and high school teachers by providing them with an understanding of primary and secondary history sources, their context, and research-based instructional strategies.

Shaffer will receive a $1,000 honorarium from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and will be in the running for the National History Teacher of the Year award to be selected this fall. Guthridge Elementary School’s library will receive a core archive of history books and materials from the institute.

“This award gives us the chance to recognize great history teachers across the country,” said Lesley Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “It puts exceptional educators front and center.”

Shaffer has taught all of her 11 years in fifth grade at Guthridge Elementary in Parsons. She and her husband, John, have two children: Stacia, 17, and Trevor, 13.

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It helps create history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, partners with school districts to implement Teaching American History grants, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by historians. The institute also funds awards including the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and George Washington Book Prizes and offers fellowships for scholars to work in history archives, including the Gilder Lehrman Collection. For more information, visit www.gilderlehrman.org.

Preserve America is a White House initiative that encourages greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past and increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets. For more information, visit www.preserveamerica.gov.

---Pitt State---