Teacher Receives National Fellowship on World War I History
A Moore County educator plans to enrich her students’ learning about World War I after participating in a unique learning opportunity last week.
Aberdeen resident Beth Hurley became one of eight instructors chosen from a field of national applicants to take part in a teaching fellowship sponsored by the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.
Hurley participated in an intensive, four-day work session at the museum, which was designed to help teachers “enhance the way they share the lessons of the Great War” with their students. Now back in Moore County, she is currently developing lesson plans for the fall based on what she learned during her training period in Kansas City.
“It was an unbelievable experience, one of the most inspiring teacher activities I’ve ever done,” said Hurley, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Southern Middle School in Aberdeen. “Everyone was so motivated and passionate about teaching and learning. It was a very exciting time because it inspired me to achieve new levels of teaching and to pursue additional learning experiences for myself.”
As a teaching fellow, Hurley received access to the museum’s collections and archives, attended private lectures from leading World War I historians, and earned professional development hours as she accumulated information about the “Great War.”
“As a result of this experience, I hope that my students will better understand, and I will be better able to explain, the World War I period,” Hurley said. “Until participating in the teaching fellowship, I taught World War I only from the African perspective. We teach the continent of Africa and Asia in seventh grade, so I also cover the Asian perspective as well.
“We look at the war from the perspective of how it helped these areas look toward independence for their own countries. This year I will be adding in the European viewpoint as well.”
Lora Vogt, the museum’s curator of education, called Hurley a “very gifted” candidate.
“Beth is a creative teacher who brings ‘big picture’ objectives to her lesson plans, which she can also break down to make the concepts easy to understand for her middle school students,” Vogt said. “She has great concepts and comes through as an energetic, active and exceptional educator. Beth was one of a group of amazing, outstanding teachers from across the nation with whom I was thrilled to work.”
Vogt said that it is “more important than ever” that instructors become prepared to teach the lessons of the war to younger generations.
“As the centennial of World War I fast approaches, (teachers must) have the right tools to help students understand this global event whose impact is still felt today,” she said. “The goal of the teacher fellowship is to equip some of the brightest teachers in America with the resources to make the causes, events and consequences of World War I relevant and meaningful to students.”
Hurley, who was the only middle school teacher among the fellows chosen who teach grades seven through 12, said that she took “pages of notes” during her stay.
“A typical day had us involved in learning sessions with professors teaching different topics dealing with World War I,” Hurley said. “We had group discussions among the fellows, and finally, research time. We were given unlimited access to the museum and its collection to help us write lesson plans, and we are now expected to write a detailed lesson plan utilizing the museum’s resources that the museum will then put on their website. These lessons will then be available to all teachers.”
Asked why she believed details about the war are relatively unknown by many, especially in comparison with World War II, Hurley said that the concepts of right and wrong were less obvious than in the more recent conflict.
“World War II was a pretty clear-cut case of good versus evil, while the Great War is not so easy to categorize,” she said. “Not many people know that much about the first World War, but I hope that this will change.
“I think that education is a big part of people understanding and remembering about World War I. A lot of impact on students and what they remember comes from teacher excitement (about the subject), and educating teachers about the war and raising their knowledge and passion will directly relate to the students.”
Hurley and the others will return to Kansas City next year to share their experiences with the others.
“The fellows will implement these activities and lesson plans over the 2012-2013 school year and will return to the museum next summer to present their work,” Vogt said. “This is a unique opportunity for teachers to grow within their profession by utilizing the museum’s incredible resources and collaborating with other professionals who share their passion for education, and we are pleased that Beth could join us for this exciting program.”
To learn more about the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, visit www.theworldwar.org.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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