By ERIN ALLEN
Sara Suiter, a third-grade Spanish-English immersion teacher at the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in the District of Columbia, has been selected as the Library’s 2010–2011 Teacher-in-Residence. She began her term in August.
Since 2000, the Library of Congress has recruited teachers to work with its Educational Outreach Division to help teachers incorporate the Library’s digitized primary sources into high-quality instruction. The Educational Outreach Division, a unit of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, is responsible for directing and developing the Library’s efforts to make its resources available and useful to the nation’s K–12 community. Over the past decade, the division has used digital technology and its collective educational expertise to bring the Library’s collections and scholarship into classrooms across the country.
“The Library of Congress Teacher-in-Residence position is a unique professional growth opportunity that will allow me to meld classroom experience and academic research interests,” said Suiter. “As the first primary grades Teacher-in-Residence, I hope to encourage other educators to incorporate primary sources into their teaching by developing innovative curriculum units aimed at a younger audience. The tangible links that primary sources provide to historical content are important for contemporary K–12 students.”
“We are very excited to have Sara join our team for the 2010–2011 school year,” said Elizabeth Ridgway, director of Educational Outreach. “In both her application and interview, Sara demonstrated tremendous creativity, energy and a deep following academic year. Suiter’s project, “Creating Digital Culture Boxes: Increasing Teacher Use of Primary Sources,” will integrate the Library’s primary sources into her school’s curriculum. She will also train the teachers in her school in the effective use of the Library’s digital resources.
“As an undergraduate, I researched the value of culture boxes as a tool for K–12 global education. These boxes of cultural artifacts encourage hands-on learning; however, they require many resources—human, monetary and space. I hope to use the Library of Congress’s digital archives to overcome these shortcomings by creating two ‘digital culture boxes’ —with supporting tutorials and teacher integration aids—for D.C. public charter school second -through fifth-grade use,” she explained. “Like the conventional culture boxes, these teacher resources will contain cultural primary-source materials—from songs to photos to maps—intended both to educate teachers and to enrich classroom lessons. Replacing the literal artifact box with a digital reference package will not only facilitate varied resource interaction with an enormous amount of material not otherwise readily available to inner-city elementary students, but, even more importantly, will provide a more cost-effective, accessible, and sustainable classroom resource.”
To be considered for the Teacher-in-Residence position, candidates must submit an online application along with a current resume, project plan, letters of recommendation and a letter from a school or district authorizing official approving the intergovernmental personnel agreement. Applications are evaluated based on the teacher’s creativity and willingness to contribute to the educational community as evidenced by his or her description of past activities and recommendation letters, and the feasibility and value of the project that the applicant proposes. Finalists are contacted for a brief phone interview prior to the selection decision.
“Teaching a class of diverse students, I have found primary-source materials to be a critical teaching supplement but one that is unfortunately underutilized due to the amount of time required to find and integrate relevant primary sources. I am excited that the time I will have to focus on the creation of innovative materials and tools will enable educators to more readily use primary sources in the classroom,” Suiter said.
Erin Allen is acting editor of the Library’s staff newsletter, The Gazette. Erika White, supervisory educational resources specialist in the Office of Strategic Initiatives, contributed to this report.