U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was on campus to congratulate the sixth annual National History Teacher of the Year award winner yesterday afternoon at The School Without Walls.
Duncan thanked this year’s winner – Timothy Bailey, a fifth grade teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah – for setting an example for students and teachers.
“Tim is just a symbol, a representation of so many folks who are going above and beyond the call of duty every single day,” Duncan told the crowd, which included previous teachers of the year and School Without Walls students.
Two of Bailey’s former students from Escalante Elementary School helped present the award, along with James G. Basker, the president of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The Institute sponsored the award program along with Preserve America, part of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and HISTORY, commonly known as the History Channel.
“The past two decades I have seen it as my privilege and duty to build an understanding for these children of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America,” Bailey said.
Bailey described his school, which he said has a nearly 70 percent poverty rate and 86 percent minority population, with students from 30 different countries.
Former students Nam Ky Nguyen and Araksun Yussuf made remarks before he received his award, commenting on Bailey’s teaching style which included acting out the Civil War in class and pretending to be legislators while learning about the three branches of government.
Bailey said his method has given students an understanding of history he has not been able to achieve with a textbook.
“I try to involve, and create an emotional connection for my students,” he said.
Bailey, who received $10,000 along with the national recognition, told the crowd that he is the reality of the American dream, as he is the first in his family to graduate from high school, and the first to graduate from college.
“I am proof that with hard work, determination and perseverance, the American dream can still become the American reality.”
Duncan praised Bailey for his teaching style.
“You have to be a little crazy, you have to be a little out there – that’s how you really connect with students and ultimately… that’s how students learn,” he said.
Duncan took questions from students after his remarks. The school has a partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute that has developed a humanities program integrating history and literature for all 500 students on campus.
Basker noted that the students enjoy resources and support from GW, and recognized professor James Miller, the Chair of the American Studies Department at GW for his support to the program.
Students asked about the state of history education, including what will be gained from the stimulus package passed this year.
Duncan told the students and guests that $100 billion in new money is going towards education, doubling its budget. He said he thinks the U.S. needs to dramatically increase the graduation rate among students and make sure more graduates are prepared for success in higher education.
“As a country we don’t invest in education enough. I really think it is an investment, it’s not an expense.”