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Local teacher uses fellowship fund to make journey to Poland

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Day-in and day-out, local educators teach their students about the journey of Lewis and Clark, the literature of Shakespeare, the writing of Julius Caesar — but many teachers haven’t had the chance to bring these lessons to life through their own experience.

However, Humanities Tennessee is giving Tennessee educators the opportunity to do just that, providing professional opportunities and much needed classroom funding with the “Outstanding Educator Awards.”

The awards recognize educators who have demonstrated excellence in teacher the humanities and who encourage the humanities to be an important part of their students’ lives.

Each of the 2016 recipients received a $2,000 fellowship to further their professional development in the humanities, and their schools receive $1,500 for humanities programs and materials.

Fellowship funds can be used to cover tuition, travel and living expenses associated with graduate course work or an individual learning plan, which can involve travel to a variety of museums, historic sites and other cultural institutions.

Michael Robinson of Houston High School is one of six state winners this year. Robinson teaches several subjects in the Humanities Department at Houston.

Robinson plans to use the fellowship money for a study trip to Krakow, Poland, to visit and learn more about the places central to the Holocaust.

An in-depth study for one of his students will focus on this grim time in history and will include a viewing of the film Schindler’s List. His trip over the summer will include visits to the extermination camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oscar Schindler’s factory and museum—among others.

“When I read how past winners of this award applied these funds,” he said, “it occurred to me that I could finally travel to Poland to see several places central to the movie, to take photographs of these places, and to incorporate them into lessons for my students to emphasize the fact that these are real places and that real people lived and died in them.”

Houston High also profits from his award. The Humanities Department found a quick use for the $1,500.

“In the course description for United States History and Geography it states: The reading of primary source documents is a key feature of United States history standards. The term “primary sources” is mentioned 16 times in the standards,” said Robinson.

The money would therefore provide Houston history teachers with several instructional packages that include primary sources covering a variety of historical topics.