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Grant will benefit history teachers

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By Tom Wilmoth

Several Bedford County teachers will get a better understanding of U.S. history through a program funded by a $750,000 federal grant.

    Bedford County Public Schools, which partnered with six other jurisdictions, has received a  “Teaching American History” grant of $743,397 from the U.S. Department of Education. Over a three-year period, the grant will support a program called “American History in International Context,” which provides high-quality professional development to teachers of American history.

    The Teaching American History grant program is designed to raise student achievement by improving teachers’ knowledge and understanding of U.S. history. “American History in International Context” is a three-year professional development project for public school teachers in seven underserved Virginia school systems comprising the Bedford Consortium. Over the three-year grant term, the project will strengthen the subject-matter knowledge of 25 elementary, middle and high school teachers.

    Because Bedford County is the lead jurisdiction, it is expected to receive 15 of the 25 slots for the program, according to Don Toms, instructional consultant for Bedford County schools.

    During the three-year period, the teachers will attend seminars through the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. The teachers will receive graduate level credit. During the summer the teachers will travel to different historical sites. The grant will cover the cost. The goal is to have the teachers experience a more in-depth look at American history, Toms said.

    The program will start next summer. Toms said the county has received about 20 applications for its slots from teachers in the elementary, middle and high school levels. Locations that will be visited are expected to include the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Gettysburg. They will participate in two or three-day trips where the seminars will be held.

    “We have taken applications from teachers who are interested at all three levels,” Toms said.

    There is a three-year commitment that the teachers must be willing to complete. Those applying will submit a resume and write papers on why they want to participate, including how the program would enhance their classroom instruction.

    “We heard about it last year,” Toms said of the program.

    The other jurisdictions participating include those from Alleghany, Bath, Craig, Giles, Highland and Pulaski counties. None of the divisions have been involved with this grant before.

    “The teachers who have applied are very excited about it,” he said, adding that it is good because the grant money is “actually going to benefit the classroom teacher.”

    The teachers completing the program will end up with six graduate hours from the University of Virginia.