Apr 15, 2020
SGAP Teacher Spotlight May No. 2 (Kim Ball - Bountiful, Utah)
Name: Kim Ball
School Name: Bountiful High School
City, State: Bountiful, Utah
Subjects Taught: AP Comparative Government, AP U.S. Government, U.S. Government, Film History and Study Skills (which is a credit recovery class)
Grades Taught: 10-12, but mostly 12
No. of Years Teaching: 17 years
Nestled at the base of the majestic, snow-capped mountains of the Wasatch Range, the city of Bountiful, Utah, serves as a suburb of Salt Lake City and is home to Bountiful High School, where Kim Ball teaches AP U.S. Government and other subjects to 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Ball, who has 17 years of teaching experience, says teaching with a distance-learning format during the COVID-19 pandemic has required her to quickly adapt.
“The reason that I love teaching is I love the interaction I have with students in the classroom,” Ball says. “I like the human connection. However, I have been impressed with the technology that gives us the ability to connect with students remotely.”
For her classes, Ball relies on Instructure’s popular learning management system, Canvas, where she uploads videos, audio files and PowerPoint presentations, along with other content. “I try to employ a variety of teaching methods and activities to help all of the different learners in my class,” Ball says.
For weekly videoconferencing with her students, she uses Zoom. Although Bountiful High School does not have a 1:1 learning environment, most students bring their own devices, Ball says, and all students are given the opportunity to check out a Cloudbook from the school.
Ball has been using the SGAP Student Forum newsletter and other civics materials in her classroom since 2011. Although she used to receive the monthly paper mailings, in 2018, Ball voluntarily switched to paperless in order to save paper. Now she relies solely on the SGAP e-newsletter, which is emailed to enrolled teachers four times a semester, or eight times a year.
“I love the paperless version of the SGAP newsletter,” Ball says. “Each of the issues in the SGAP newsletter relates to policy that is looking to be made, has been made and needs changing, or in some way impacts policy. I select six to 10 of the issues and then divide my classes into groups of about four students and have them answer questions relating to their issue and policy.”
In the Legislative Loop
Ball says she likes the pro/con format of the Student Forum newsletter because it helps students make more educated assessments of current legislative issues. This is especially important, she believes, in today’s world of politics.
“The way my students get information is totally different than what I am used to and what their parents and grandparents have done,” Ball says. “Our sources have been TV, radio and newspaper. My students today get their news through social media. I think it is important to help them navigate through this and teach them how to evaluate different sources.
Ultimately, Ball wants her students to remember that they mattered in her class. “I also want them to remember they should educate themselves and vote,” Ball adds. “One person can and does make a difference.”
Apr 17, 2020
Student Forum Newsletter for May 2020 (Surveillance Law and Equal Rights Amendment)
Mar 26, 2020
SGAP Teacher Spotligt for May 2020 (Paul Martin in Friend, Nebraska)
Name: Paul Martin
Title: Social Studies Teacher
School Name: Friend Public School
City, State: Friend, Nebraska
Subject(s) Taught: Geography, American History, World History, American Government, Sociology
Grade(s)Taught: 7th – 12th grade
No. of Years Teaching: 32 years
The coronavirus pandemic has changed Americans’ lives dramatically, and one profession greatly affected by these changes is teaching. Like so many teachers today, Paul Martin has had to quickly shift from in-person teaching to a distance-learning format for his classes due to school closures where he teaches.
Going the Distance
Martin teaches American Government and other subjects to 7th through 12th graders at Friend Public School in Friend, Nebraska. Located thirty miles west of Lincoln, Nebraska, Friend is a small town with a population of around 1,000. Fortunately, the school has enough Chromebooks and tablets to cover most of the students and nearly all students have internet connections at home, save for one or two.
“This was my first day to use distance learning to connect with my students during this time of school closures,” Martin says. “The challenge will be getting comfortable delivering good, meaningful lessons to the students online. I am glad to at least be meeting with my students and I sense they are happy to have that connection as well.”
Like many teachers across the nation, Martin has not had much experience teaching online and the sudden switch in format has required him to be nimble. “I do feel that I am learning some good ideas and I’m having to adapt and be stretched each day that I am not able to meet face-to-face with the students,” he says. “It can be challenging to keep up with the new and quickly changing technologies.”
Technology also offers good learning opportunities as well, he says. “Using new technologies will provide social studies teachers with new avenues for instruction,” Martin says. “It is important to provide our students with opportunities that will prepare them for our ever-changing world.”
Thank You for Being in Friend
Teaching in a small community such as the city of Friend, Nebraska, was not what Martin pictured for his life. After all, he grew up attending one of the largest high schools in Nebraska. “Now I find myself teaching in one of the smaller schools in our state,” Martin says. “While course offerings may be limited, the opportunities for students to be involved in extra-curricular and other school groups are great. I have really come to enjoy living in this community and teaching at the Friend Public School.”
Martin’s philosophy of teaching is that learning is a lifelong process. “It is also important that students develop the skills and understanding that will help prepare them to be good citizens who are able to make positive contributions to the community,” he adds.
For the last eight years, Martin has used the SGAP program in his American Government classes. “I appreciate the timely topics and discussions SGAP generates,” he says. “Using SGAP in my classroom can really bring to life the concepts I am teaching and helps the students make important learning connections.”
What Martin hopes his students remember about his class is that he cares for them first and foremost. “I also want each one of my students to know they have the potential to make a positive difference in society and the lives of others,” Martin says. “I want them to have an appreciation for our great nation and know that they can have a voice in our government.”
Feb 25, 2020
SGAP Teacher Spotlight for April 2020 (Stephen Kimbrough in Addison, Texas)
Feb 17, 2020
Student Forum Newsletter - March 2020 (Refugees & Fuel Standards)
Jan 17, 2020
2019 SGAP Student Voting Results Infographic
Jan 17, 2020
Student Forum Newsletter - February 2020 (Longer School Day & Balanced Budget Amendment)
Nov 19, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter for December 2019 (Cryptocurrency and Subminimum Wage)
Oct 18, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter for November 2019 (E-Cigarettes and Vaccines)
Sep 18, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter for October 2019 (Prescription Drug Prices and Alaska Drilling)
Aug 16, 2019
Infographic of the Month for September 2019
Aug 16, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter for September 2019 (Debt Ceiling and Reparations)
Jun 18, 2019
SGAP Teacher Spotlight for October 2019 (Amber Hale, Evansville, IN) |
Name: Amber Hale
Title: Social Studies Teacher
School Name: F.J. Reitz High School
City, State: Evansville, IN
Subject(s) Taught: Government and Economics
No. of Years Teaching: 20
Although Amber Hale’s teaching career spans 20 years, this social studies teacher is in tune with today’s trends. She understands that technology is changing the way the education system works and embraces these changes. “Technology has greatly changed teaching for the better, and I believe it will continue to do so,” Hale says.
Hale uses the SGAP program to teach Government and Economics to her 12th grade students at F.J. Reitz High School, a public school in Evansville, Indiana. The school is a member of the third largest school district in the state—a district that places special emphasis on technology.
1:1 Technology Initiative
To ensure all students have the same access to technology and the tools they will in the 21st century, the district implemented a one-to-one initiative, providing all high school students their own take-home computer.
“Due to the one-to-one initiative, students can now research and find information that is current and relevant on a daily basis,” Hale says. “We can explore so much more material because it is at our fingertips. We use our Chromebooks every day.”
In addition to student devices, all classrooms are equipped with Activeboard and Activesound technology to support teaching and learning.
“Because our classroom is online, students have access to materials, video and links that I post, and they submit online as well,” Hale says. “This allows for more in-depth learning and instruction. This is also nice for when they have to miss class due to a field trip, etc.”
Timely and Timeless
Despite teaching in an environment supported by today’s technology, Hale’s approach to classroom management remains timeless. “As for classroom management, I try to use the Golden Rule,” she says. “I treat them with kindness and respect, and I expect it in return.”
She says her teaching philosophy centers on the principles of student empowerment. “Every child has different strengths and should be encouraged to explore them,” Hale says. “One day, they will be the ones handed the reigns to our great country. We need to prepare them to be educated decision makers and active citizens.”
Current and Future
As an educator who has used the SGAP program in her classes for several years, Hale believes in the power of engaging students in classroom discussions using current events. She says staying current on the news and current events is a tough but rewarding part of her job.
“It is imperative to always present multiple perspectives and let the kids discuss their ideas and opinions in an educated, controlled environment,” Hale says. “Trying to tie real life into my classroom is very important to me so that the students ‘buy in.’”
In the future, Hale hopes her students leave her classroom knowing that she genuinely cares about them and about the subjects she teaches.
“I had a veteran teacher tell me once, ‘The most important thing a child leaves your classroom with is their ego,’ and it has always stuck in my mind,” she says. “It does not do anyone any good to embarrass students or tear them down.”
May 14, 2019
SGAP Teacher Spotlight - Erin Le Francois (Mammoth Lakes, CA)
Name: Erin Le Francois
Title: Department Head, Teacher
School Name: Mammoth High School
City, State: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Subject(s) Taught: American Gov’t, US History, AP US, AP Gov’t/Politics and AP Comparative Politics
Grade(s )Taught: 11/12
No. of Years Teaching: 26
Twenty-six years ago, Erin Le Francois began her career as an educator and—for the past 20 years—she’s used SGAP in her classroom. “A parent mentioned the SGAP program to me, and I signed up,” she says. “In my government classes, we discuss current events every Friday.”
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Today, Le Francois serves as a social studies teacher and department head at a four-year public high school in Mammoth Lakes, California. The mountain resort community is home to Mammoth Mountain, the West Coast’s largest ski area. Situated in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mammoth Lakes is about 164 miles south of Reno, Nevada, and 325 miles north of Los Angeles.
In her classes at Mammoth High School, Le Francois uses SGAP in a variety of ways. “Sometimes we just read the Student Forum newsletter topics and discuss,” she explains. “Sometimes we will use the discussion questions. Recently, we’ve been incorporating further in-depth study online with the resources provided.”
As an educator with more than two decades of teaching experience, Le Francois has learned to focus on the essentials in her approach to classroom management. “In my classes I have one rule: respect,” Le Francois says. “We build from there. As long as everyone is respectful, we can have open dialogue and trust.”
Respecting others is especially important in today’s polarized political climate. “Government has been interesting to teach these past few years,” Le Francois admits. “I always work to present an unbiased version of things, but for me this has gotten more challenging as I get older.”
The Way We Were
Technology has presented both challenges and opportunities to social studies teachers, Le Francois says. “Social media and media in general are changing so fast that I feel these will influence all teachers,” she adds. “Cell phones are another trend that has impacted teaching. Getting students to interact and discuss topical issues is always challenging.”
Le Francois says what she wants her students to remember most about her class is the importance of asking questions and thinking critically.
“I want students to remember to think before they make a snap judgement, that people are innocent until proven guilty,” she says. “I want them to remember to treat people equally and not rush to judge. Be kind, help others and give back to the community that raised you.”
Apr 18, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter for May 2019 (Green New Deal)
Mar 20, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter April 2019 (National Emergency and Civil Asset Forfeiture) |
Feb 15, 2019
2018 Nationwide Student Voting Results Infographic
Feb 15, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter - March 2019 (Gun Control Laws and Vaccines) |
Jan 21, 2019
U.S. Trade and Tariffs Infographic |
Jan 21, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter - February 2019 (Troops in Syria + Food Stamps and Work |
Jan 21, 2019
Student Forum Newsletter - December 2018 (Birthright Citizenship and Balanced Budget Amendment)
Oct 16, 2018
Student Forum Newsletter - November 2018 (Smoking Age and Tech Regulations) I
Sep 19, 2018
Student Forum Newsletter - October 2018 (Minimum Wage and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Cars)
Sep 10, 2018
Civil Discourse in the United States Infographic
Sep 07, 2018
SGAP Teacher Spotlight for October 2018 (Stephanie Cooper in Boyd, TX)
Name: Stephanie Cooper
Title: Teacher, Social Studies Department Team Leader
School Name: Boyd High School
City, State: Boyd, TX
Subject(s) Taught: U.S. Government, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, and Junior/Senior Seminar
Grade(s) Taught: 10th, 11th and 12th grades
No. of Years Teaching: 10 years
Honors: 2008 James Madison Fellow for the State of Oklahoma; Oklahoma Governor’s Commendation; Durant High Teacher of the Year (2005 and 2007); United States Air Force Veteran
In the large state of Texas lies a small town named Boyd, located about 30 miles northwest from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, where Stephanie Cooper teaches social studies classes at the town’s public high school.
Cooper, who also serves as team leader of the social studies department, says her greatest teaching challenge is bringing to light the importance of social studies in an educational climate where schools prioritize the STEM subjects.
“I think the greatest challenge is that emphasis in schools is placed on state-tested subjects such as math, science and English,” Cooper says. “The way our government works is vital knowledge for soon-to-be voting citizens, but I think it takes a back seat to math and science now.”
Why Active Citizenry Matters
Cooper says not placing an importance on teaching U.S. Government has far-reaching effects on the fabric of American society. “The effects I see, and have seen for quite some time, are low participation in voting by young people, not knowing how basic federal, state, and local government works, and no appreciation for how our Constitution came to be,” she says.
As a military veteran of the United States Air Force, Cooper says her experience serving her country has significantly influenced her teaching. “My experience in the U.S. Air Force has caused me to focus on the subject of U.S. Government and to make sure young people know the sacrifices that have come before them,” she says.
Spotlighting Social Studies
To bring to light the importance of social studies, Cooper believes social studies educators must keep finding new ways to educate youth. “Make sure to use opportunities such as Patriot Day, Constitution Day, and Freedom Week to put history and our country in the forefront,” she adds.
Cooper has also seen a rise in students’ interest in active participation as a result of school shootings such as the one in Parkland, Florida. “Young people are beginning to become more involved, largely because of school policies and dangers they now face in schools,” she says. “Students are nearly forced to participate in politics and government because their security and safety are on the line.”
“In fact, their future in general depends on how much they know about their government, and how much they participate,” Cooper continues. “There is a very real opportunity for young people to make their mark and lead in the way in how the United States government runs.”
Aug 17, 2018
Student Forum Newsletter - September 2018 (Supreme Court and Bullying Laws)
Aug 08, 2018
SGAP Teacher Spotlight for September 2018 (Jill Anne Hahn, Evansville, IN) |
“My teaching philosophy is to educate all of my students by bringing the outside world into the classroom.”
- Jill Anne Hahn
Name: Jill Anne Hahn
Title: Coordinator of Randall T. Shepard Leadership and Law Academy; Secondary High School Teacher at Evansville Harrison High School
School Name: Evansville Harrison High School and Randall T. Shepard Leadership and Law Academy
City, State: Evansville, Indiana
Subject(s) Taught: CAP Government, CAP Economics, We The People Constitutional Law course, Economics, Government, International Relations and Current Events
Grade(s) Taught: Seniors
No. of Years Teaching: 29 years
Honors: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Economic Educator Advisory Board; Indiana Council of Social Studies award: Stan Harris Social Studies Citizen Award; Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year Award from the National Guard; Leadership Evansville Professional Education Leadership Nominee; Olin B. Davis Exemplary Teaching of Economics Award; Randall T. Shepard iCivics Outstanding Teacher in Vanderburgh Co.; Indiana Supreme Court Award; Senator Lugar Symposium, Guest speaker on Nuclear Armament, Evansville Courier Press Outstanding Educator Nominee, Indiana Government Teacher of the Year presented by Senator Lugar
As an educator who serves in dual roles – a social studies teacher at a public high school and a program coordinator for a four-year college preparatory school – Jill Anne Hahn is one busy education professional. Her long list of honors and awards is a reflection of her commitment to excellence in education.
Hahn believes Government and Economics are two of the most important subjects that will affect students’ daily lives, now and in the future.
“My teaching philosophy is to educate all of my students by bringing the outside world into the classroom,” Hahn says. “By studying current events, plus international relations, students can actually see how the outside world impacts them."
One way Hahn teaches her students about current events is through the SGAP program. “I love SGAP and have been using it for 20 years,” Hahn says. “I feel that the future of our students looks extremely bright thanks to all the tools we have to teach them such as SGAP.”
Living to Give
Hahn’s philosophy doesn’t only focus on how the external world impacts students, but also how students’ internal landscapes impact the external world.
“I am big on giving of one's self,” Hahn says. “Each student is required to give 10 hours of their semester to service learning, as part of their civic duty as Americans. I'm amazed at how many students come back years later and tell me their volunteer service inspired a career or they continued giving of themselves.”
This reminder to give back is much-needed in today’s fast-paced society. “Students have so many outside distractions in today's world, whether it be too much social media, or issues at home,” Hahn says. “My role has changed over the years from just being a teacher and now also includes being a student advocate.”
Rolling with the Changes
In her 29 years of teaching, Hahn has witnessed many changes in the field of education, including those inspired by technology. A benefit of today’s technology is social media, Hahn says, because it has enabled her to stay in touch with her former students.
“Students remind me of what I taught them and many times we have civic discussion over various matters,” she says. “Often, I remind them that they must continue what I taught them because, after all, they are my legacies.”
Jul 30, 2018
Urban vs. Rural in the United States Infographic 2
Jul 17, 2018
Modernization of American Society Throughout History Infographic 2
Apr 25, 2018
Teacher Spotlight for May 2018 - Jill Auten of Edmond, OK
Mar 22, 2018
Divided Politics in America Infographic
Mar 22, 2018
How Americans Access Health Care
Mar 22, 2018
The Value of the Dollar Infographic
Mar 22, 2018
Volunteerism in the USA Infographic
Mar 22, 2018
SGAP 2017 Student Voice Voting Results (Nationwide)
Feb 27, 2018
Teacher Spotlight - Greg Baird, Murrieta, CA (April 2018)
Feb 16, 2018
Student Forum Newsletter – March 2018 (Offshore Drilling & Welfare Drug Testing)
Jan 29, 2018
March 2018 Teacher Spotlight – David Weikel, Chattanooga
Jan 25, 2018
2017 Student Voting Results Infographic
Jan 17, 2018
Research Links & Critical-Thinking Questions – February 2018
Jan 17, 2018
Volunteerism in the United States Infographic
Jan 17, 2018
Student Forum Newsletter – February 2018 (Net Neutrality and Diversity Visa Lottery)
Dec 19, 2017
Soldiers from Sea to Shining Sea: U.S. Military Population Infographic
Dec 13, 2017
Tried & True: Evolution of Military History Infographic
Nov 30, 2017
U.S. Southwest Border Enforcement Infographic
Nov 08, 2017
Student Forum Newsletter - December 2017
Nov 06, 2017
Military Population Infographic
Nov 06, 2017