The 2007 scholarship teacher program was held at the 20th annual We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals, April 27–30, 2007. The program, now in its seventh year, offers select teachers a first-hand perspective on the national competition by immersing them in the activities of the weekend alongside competing students, teachers, and judges. To attend, We the People state coordinators nominate one teacher from their state. This year, 46 states were represented.
The 2007 scholarship teacher program began with an orientation on Friday, April 27. At the orientation, teachers were grouped with a mentor teacher according to their level of We the People experience. The mentor teacher served as a national finals guide, answering questions about preparing for competition and leading his or her group through the weekend’s activities. This year's mentor teachers were David Alcox of New Hampshire, Al Bell of Ohio, Kevin Fox of California, Rosie Heffernan of Florida, Milton Hyams of Nevada, Shayne Klein of New Jersey, Tim Moore of Wisconsin, and Kathryn Switzer of Colorado. During the orientation, the scholarship teachers met with their group members and discussed their goals for the weekend. Wallace Dunham of South Carolina said that his group planned to return next year as competitors and added, tongue in cheek, that all the teachers in the room should watch out.
On Saturday, scholarship teachers visited class hearings in groups with their assigned mentor. At the end of the day, the teachers and mentors joined in a debriefing session to discuss their observations. Hyams facilitated discussion around the question, “What are some things you saw today that ensure success?” One teacher responded that the more successful teams understood the philosophies that underpin the case law and the principles of government. Another teacher commented that you could tell that “some of the teams spent a lot of time outside of the classroom with each other” and that “this develops the lifelong learner that we as teachers are trying to create.”
Joining the discussion were three national finals judges: Terri Davis, a professor at Lamar University; Joe Stewart, a professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Clemson University; and Rick Hardy, a professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Western Illinois University. The judges led a question-and-answer session, discussing the criteria used in evaluating students. Hardy said that he enters a hearing wanting to find out if the students know the content and can deliver it. He also wants to know if students can digest, synthesize, and apply what they have learned. He looks for originality and, more importantly, passion. Stewart added that students should be able to “own their own concepts” and defend them. He emphasized that listening to the judges’ questions and making sure to answer the question the judge asked is critical.
At the end of the debrief, Angela Orr, a former scholarship teacher and a 2007 national finals competing teacher from Damonte Ranch High School in Reno, Nevada, participated on a panel with the 2007 mentors. Orr spoke of her experiences as a scholarship teacher and how she noticed that every teacher at the national finals had his or her own style. This gave Orr the confidence to use her personality and style in her classroom teaching of We the People. She recommended teachers spend the time to build relationships with their students in order to develop their individual style with each class.
Similarly, Heffernan, mentor and national-finals-winning teacher from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, reminded teachers of the positive side of teaching We the People. She said that if you go back to your school and ask others for help, “don’t be disappointed.” Rosie did not have help from other teachers at her school and she did not have attorneys teaching the class. Rosie told the scholarship teachers that the reward is that you will never become as attached to a class as you will to a We the People class. The We the People teachers in the room agreed.
On Sunday, the scholarship teachers had the opportunity to tour Washington, D.C. The teachers also attended hearings on Capitol Hill, receptions, and the awards banquet on Monday as part of the program. Jeff White, a scholarship teacher from Illinois, said, “The networking with state coordinators, scholarship teachers, and the Center for Civic Education staff is awesome. The whole package—from location, timing, food, networking, resources, helpful hints, dialogue with staff, etc.—was inspiring. I’m proud to be working with the Center in our efforts to educate young people to be citizens of purpose.”