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|$1.6 million grant focuses on history|
Ouachita Parish Schools will receive a $1.6 million grant Friday to help northeast Louisiana teachers better educate students about history.
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded Ouachita Parish Schools and the New Orleans-based Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities the $1.6 million "Teaching American History" grant to help American history teachers in five northeast Louisiana public school systems meet new state standards in American history education.
While Ouachita Parish Schools is the actual recipient of the five-year grant, the Teaching American History program is a partnership with public school systems in Ouachita, Morehouse, Richland and East Carroll parishes; Monroe City schools; the University of Louisiana-Monroe; and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
LEH wrote the grant and will administer it for the five-district partnership.
Ouachita Parish Schools officials and other school representatives in the five-parish area will accept the grant at a news conference Friday at the Ouachita Parish School Board office.
Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said the grant funding will go toward improving the education of area students in one of his favorite subjects.
"I'm an old history teacher myself, and a history buff," Webber said. "I think it's so important our students understand history."
"We try to talk about it with all of our students because everyone needs to understand the past so we can better prepare for the future," he said. "In some cases, it means simply knowing about our past, and in other cases, it means not making the same mistakes.
"We have to find better ways to reach our kids and teach them about our history because it's so important," Webber added.
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities executive director and president Michael Sartisky said the "underlying purpose of the national Teaching American History is to improve teacher preparation and student understanding and achievement in American history."
He said the Ouachita Parish-LEH grant "is an excellent opportunity to give public school teachers in northeast Louisiana, and ultimately their students, access to the many of the best history scholars in northeast Louisiana and nationally prominent visiting scholars from other parts of the nation."
Teaching American History grant funds will enable the LEH and ULM to conduct three graduate-level "Teacher Institutes in American History" each summer for five years for roughly 70 teachers each year, Sartisky said.
The institutes will be taught primarily by history professors from ULM and Louisiana Tech.
The first summer institutes will be conducted at ULM from June 7 to July 1, 2010.
The institutes, based on the school systems' needs and new state curriculum requirements in American history, will focus on historical periods, issues, people, ideas and events that shaped American history, according to Sartisky.
Teachers attending the institutes will receive $1,000 stipends, free college textbooks, free classroom teaching materials to take back to their classrooms, three hours of graduate credit from ULM and 45 state continuing learning units.
Furthermore, each year LEH will organize two in-service professional development workshops in American history for teachers in the five school systems.
The workshops will be taught by nationally known American history scholars and expert master teachers selected by the New York-based Gilder Lehrman Institute in American History. In addition, other in-service workshops will be conducted by education curators from the National Archives, Library of Congress, the Smithsonian's Museum of American History and National Portrait Gallery. The first workshop will be held Oct. 7 in West Monroe for a selected number of teachers. It will focus on the American Revolution and the founding of a new nation.
This is the fourth Teaching American History grant – totaling $4.6 million — LEH has secured for public school districts in Louisiana. Two earlier grants took place in Orleans and Caddo parishes. LEH currently is in the third and final year of a Teaching American History program for teachers in Calcasieu Parish.