On Wednesday Secretary Arne Duncan took part in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., honoring the 2009 Preserve America National History Teacher of the Year. Arne congratulated honoree Timothy Bailey, a history teacher at Escalante Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and used the occasion to praise good teaching and to highlight the importance of learning history.
“When students have a real grasp of local, national, and world history, they get a sense of place, and they realize their power,” Arne said.
Accepting the award, Mr. Bailey spoke movingly about his passion for teaching history in remarks laced with references to Plato, John Locke, John Adams, and Martin Luther King, Junior. He noted that Escalante Elementary is an inner-city school serving a significant immigrant population, and its students’ families speak some 20 languages.
The ceremony featured brief tributes from two of Mr. Bailey’s former students, both of whom are now sixth graders at Escalante. “I love Mr. Bailey’s teaching style, because he often told us to act it out,” said Araksan Yussuf. “It was like story time.” Said Nam Nguyen, “We were not just learning history, we were having fun, too.”
The event took place at the School Without Walls, a Washington, D.C., public high school near the campus of George Washington University. After his remarks, Arne took questions from “Walls” students on topics ranging from American history to current education policy.
The Preserve America National History Teacher of the Year Award is conferred by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, an organization that serves teachers, students, and the general public, and Preserve America, a White House initiative supporting community efforts to preserve and enjoy our cultural and national heritage. The History Channel is a sponsor of the award.