UT and ETHS Help Teachers Hone History Skills

KNOXVILLE –- By visiting Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga Battlefield and other nearby historical sites, a dozen teachers from across East Tennessee will get hands-on history lessons this week, thanks to the University of Tennessee history department and the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS).

The five-day institute is funded by a U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant awarded to UT and ETHS to train teachers from Blount, Bradley, Loudon, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties, as well as Lenoir City and Sweetwater. The partnership recently learned it has received another $996,963 grant to fund three more years of history training for area teachers.

“We are making a difference in the way history is being taught in rural East Tennessee schools,” said Todd Diacon, head of UT’s history department.

The theme of this week’s institute is Civil War and Reconstruction. Teachers met Monday in Knoxville and will travel to Chattanooga to tour the History Museum, Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields and Lookout Mountain. UT Professor Dan Feller, editor of the Andrew Jackson papers, will lead several sessions.

In July, a five-day institute will focus on “Revolution and the New Nation.” Fifteen area teachers are scheduled to attend. They will meet in Knoxville and will travel to the Tipton Haynes Historic Site in Johnson City; to Rocky Mount, once capital of the Southwest Territory; to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton; and to Jonesborough. UT Professor Emeritus W. Bruce Wheeler will lead sessions.

Lisa Oakley, ETHS curator of education, said programs funded by the grant “provide content-rich professional development for fourth-, fifth- and eighth-grade social studies teachers and high school U.S. history teachers.”

Teachers attend free and receive stipends. Grant money also buys books to help participating teachers build history libraries in their schools. It also provides the means for teachers to encourage their students to participate in the National History Day competition.

This fall, when the new grant commences, five-day institutes will be replaced by one-day institutes and two- and three-day workshops to allow more teachers to attend. Some meetings will immerse teachers in history topics; others will pull in education experts to coach teachers on how they can best teach history topics to students in different grade levels.

Nationwide, 124 Teaching American History grants totaling more than $118 million were awarded this year.

Locally, ETHS is project director while UT’s history department is academic director. UT Special Collections Library and the Knox County Public Library’s Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection also are involved.

Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Todd Diacon, (865) 974-5421, tdiacon@utk.edu
Lisa Oakley, (865) 215-8828, oakley@east-tennessee-history.org