By Jack Greenwood Jr.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute is the nation’s leading American history organization dedicated to K-12 education. This year, Katie Boland was a part of 52 State History Teachers of the Year who were awarded by The Gilder Lehrman Institute for their outstanding effort and ability to promote the understanding of American history.
Effectively teaching the subject of history can prove to be challenging since it is generally the relaying of the story of how something came-to-be, while at the same time, emphasizing the relevance of how past decisions affect and influence how we think and operate today. With that said, the subject of history can be fairly bland if the teacher just spends class time lecturing and not interacting with the students or getting them involved. Although Boland formally teaches the UConn ECE Political Science course (POLS 1602: Introduction to American Politics) at Trumbull High School as a certified ECE instructor, it is clear that she has the potential to make any space into a classroom. She wears a smile that is accompanied by an enthusiastic personality which brings her teaching to life. Boland was quoted in a Trumbull Times article saying, “The key [to teaching] is to make it interesting and interactive. I try not to do straight lectures, like what I grew up with.” To make the class more interactive, Boland would have students construct their own arguments for famous court cases, such as the Supreme Court’s United States vs. Texas 2016 decision, and have other students hear the case and make a final decision. This is just one example of an innovative way to get the students involved that is emphasized by the passionate teaching of Boland.
Katie Boland seems to understand the importance of having someone lay down the groundwork for something great to be built upon it. When asked what her favorite historical era was, she responded with “[The] founding of our nation is my favorite historical era because it not only lays the foundation of our country, but also gives us the mandate to keep the republic alive.” Here, it is the foundation of the history courses that has been established, but it is up to Boland to continuously implement relevant teaching methods to keep the subject of history alive and engaging in our ever-changing young generations.
It also appears that the founding of our nation is not just a personal interest for Boland, as her class enjoys this particular era too. Boland says, “My We the People students love debating the Founding Fathers. We often have discussions in class about the most influential Founding Fathers/Mothers and the most overrated ones.” Students have explored their founding-of-our- nation interests even further by completing assignments such as writing a eulogy for their favorite founding father/mother and then presenting it to the class. It seems to be clear that Boland has manufactured a way to truly connect with her students and immerse them into the world of history. Boland’s genuineness was reciprocated by her students when they surprised her with a birthday party shortly after they had just won the State Championship for the We the People competition, which is where teams of students compete against one another to test their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. When Boland entered her classroom, students jumped from their hiding spots and began to sing “Happy Birthday” while they presented her with a large, cardboard, cutout of her favorite founding father, George Washington, and a bobble-head figure of her other favorite, Alexander Hamilton.
Along with earning the History Teacher of the Year award, Boland will receive a $1,000 honorarium and an invitation to a 2018 Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar which is a weeklong program that offers teachers daily discussions with eminent historians, visits to historic sites, and hands-on work with primary sources. In addition to this, Trumbull High School’s library will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman education materials.