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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jamie Sawatzky Named 2006 Virginia Preserve America History Teacher

Jamie Sawatzky, a history teacher at Rocky Run Middle School, has been named the 2006 Virginia Preserve America History Teacher by Preserve America in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Education and the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. Rocky Run Middle School is a Fairfax County public school.

Sawatzky, who teaches social studies to seventh grade students at Rocky Run and earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 2004, was nominated by current FCPS K-12 social studies coordinator Alice Reilly and retired coordinator Sara Shoob. Reilly and Shoob praise Sawatzky for going beyond teaching history to encourage his students to love the subject and to think like historians. His lessons include simulations that bring history alive in the classroom as his students take part in trench warfare and experience the workings of a sweatshop. Socratic seminars and creative writing experiences are also tools Sawatzky uses to engage his students.

Since 2002, his classes have participated in the World War II Veterans Oral History Day project. Students read about the period, conduct research, and prepare interview questions for World War II veterans and civilians. Working in small groups, the students learn about the World War II era from eyewitnesses who lived during that time and fought in the war. Many of the interviews have been video recorded and transcribed, then sent to the Library of Congress for inclusion in its Veterans History Project.

Sawatzky, who has been a teacher at Rocky Run and a Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) employee for six years, says, “I became a history teacher partly because I was dissatisfied with my own schooling experience and what I often saw as a lack of passion and pizzazz about history. I have modeled my career on the notion that history won’t be understood or remembered unless the kids…experience it in context and with meaning.” He earned his bachelor’s degree from LaSalle University in Philadelphia and his master’s in education from George Mason University.

The Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award, given for the first time in 2004, promotes, celebrates, encourages, and honors the teaching of U.S. history in K-12 schools. One winner is selected from each U.S. state and territory and automatically becomes a finalist for the national award. Nominees are judged on their commitment to teaching American history; expressing creativity and imagination in the classroom; using documents, artifacts, and historic sites to teach history; and demonstrating effectiveness in improving students’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for American history. History teachers from elementary through high school are eligible to be nominated.

Preserve America is a White House initiative that supports community efforts to preserve the United States’ cultural and natural heritage. For more information, visit http://www.preserveamerica.gov/overview.html .

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Note: For more information, contact Jamie Sawatzky at 703-802-7700 or jamie.sawatzky@fcps.edu .