National Academy Empowers Civics Teachers

Aug 25, 2015 / Professional Development

“WONDERFUL. Seriously the best academic experience I have ever had. I feel so empowered as a teacher, a professional, and a theorist. I feel invigorated as I return to the school year.”

These are the words of a participant at the Center’s National Academy for Civics and Government, which was conducted at Occidental College July 11-August 1 under the scholarly direction of Professor Will Harris of the University of Pennsylvania. Visiting scholars included Justice Sue Leeson and Dr. Kevin Ryan. The preceptors, or mentor teachers, were Kevin Fox, Shellee O’Brien, and Keith Gall.

The National Academy is an intensive, three-week study of the content of political and constitutional theory as well as its applications to the participants’ professional lives. Although nearly all the National Academy participants are elementary or secondary school teachers from across the country, each year there are a few prospective or former teachers. This year a teacher attended based on the strong endorsement of her father, who had participated in the National Academy more than a decade ago. Another participant was a state senator from Oklahoma who had been a teacher and who conducts programs for teachers and students in his district.

The National Academy readings are drawn from important primary and useful secondary sources, and can be viewed in their entirety on the Center’s website. Perhaps the best way to understand its profound effects on the participants is to read their own words:

This Institute was the most influential, thoughtful, rigorous, and creative professional development I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. It has changed not only the things I think about but the way I am thinking about teaching, my content, and the ways in which we, in America, live together. I am wondering how many of my colleagues I can convince to give this a try because I honestly believe that this experience is important not just for all Social Studies teachers, but for all Americans.

Will creates not only a framework for understanding Constitutional History and Philosophy but a constitutional way of thinking and discussion. This is incredibly valuable for teachers of American history and politics (and I imagine teachers of other subjects as well).

I appreciated that Dr. Harris set the bar high from the word go. I was overwhelmed at the amount of reading and preparation work that was expected of us, but in the end, it was perfect.

I also appreciate the generosity and participation of the Center for Civic Education. I learned about some awesome programs to start bringing in to my classroom!

Center Associate Director John Hale attested to the excellence of the faculty and participants, noting that he had “never seen a more cohesive group of participants over the past two decades in which the National Academy has been offered. They continue to stay in close touch via their Facebook and Slack sites as well as on I believe them when they say the National Academy will greatly enhance their teaching.”

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