By Kira Duke, Education Specialist, Center for Historic Preservation
Most folks think that summer vacation for teachers is a time to kick back, sleep in, and enjoy a two-month vacation. For the vast majority of teachers, however, summer is a time to continue their own learning through the variety of professional development opportunities offered during their “down” time. For TPS-MTSU, we look at summer as a chance to offer some of our most in-depth workshops and as an opportunity to get teachers out to some of the wonderful historic sites in our state.
During the month of June, we offered two multi-day sessions, one on labor history and the other on Reconstruction. For each of these, our participants were asked to read selected articles on the topic in advance of the workshop. We also incorporated the relatively new TPS Teacher Network into each of these sessions as a way to engage the participants in conversation prior to the workshops and to continue conversations within the groups after the workshops.
In each workshop, we explored some of the wonderful primary sources available from the Library of Congress and discussed how these sources fit into the new, rigorous state social studies standards. These workshops also gave us a chance to highlight some of the excellent lesson plans created by our TPS-MTSU graduate assistants. These included “Fights, Freedom, and Fraud: Voting Rights in the Reconstruction Era,” written by Ethan Morris, “Industrial Revolution,” by Brian Stinson, and “The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” by Ashley Armstrong.
The labor history workshop featured guest speaker Dr. Bob Hutton from the University of Tennessee’s History Department. Dr. Hutton addressed labor history through the lens of the Appalachian experience. Rebecca Byrd, a teacher from Sevier County and the teacher-in-residence with the East Tennessee Historical Society, highlighted some of her favorite exhibition items related to East Tennessee’s labor history at the East Tennessee History Center. Bringing together these local stories and resources inspired many of our participants to create lesson activities that would help their students draw connections to their own community’s labor stories.
The next week our TPS-MTSU crew, Dr. Stacey Graham, Dr. Antoinette van Zelm (who we have drafted into service for many of our Civil War-related events), and I, headed to Greeneville for the final Civil War Summer Institute of the Sesquicentennial period. Our focus was the tumultuous Reconstruction era. Through our advanced readings and Dr. van Zelm’s remarks on the first day, our group was given both a national and state context for the Reconstruction period.
During our second day of the institute, our group visited the Doak House Museum and the Andrew Johnson Museum and Library at Tusculum College, where we met with Dollie Boyd, director of the Department of Museum Program and Studies. Next, our group ventured over to the Wesley Heights neighborhood, where community leaders from the George Clem Multicultural Alliance discussed the history of this African American community, which dates back to the Reconstruction period. We ended the day at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, where our group saw Johnson’s tailor shop, his home, and grave site. We also had the opportunity to vote on Johnson’s impeachment at the visitor center. Our institute concluded with our participants drafting ideas about how they would use primary sources to teach students about the complicated and often contentious issues of the Reconstruction period.
We thoroughly enjoyed working with these two wonderful groups of educators. Now we are taking a collective breath as we ready ourselves for the next wave of summer workshops. This month, TPS-MTSU will be partnering with the Tennessee State Library and Archives for a multi-day institute on World War I, and we will also be working with Tennessee History Day to offer a series of one-day sessions throughout East Tennessee. So, as you cruise around this summer, be on the lookout for our TPS-MTSU crew as we head to our next summer workshop. Oh, and take a moment to tell your local educators how much you appreciate their dedication to continued learning.