Spotlight on Educator Network: Valencia Abbott (NC)

May 10, 2018


The iCivics Educator Network is an energetic group of educational professionals who represent iCivics with outreach and training and, just as importantly, provide the organization with invaluable insights and guidance relating to the field, the profession, and the realities of the classroom. Below is an interview with one of our Educator Network members.

As a member of the iCivics’ Educator Network, how have you helped implement Justice O’Connor’s vision of restoring civic education in your classroom/district?

This is my second year with the iCivics' Educator Network and I feel the strongest vision has been the importance that is placed on the teaching of our civics content. From the social media presence that has introduced me to an expanding network of educators that also believe that the teaching of civics is not the mere knowing of three branches but the concepts and understanding that we impart with our students that holds the importance of this country to the emails that make me aware of opportunities for different engagement for me as a teacher of information to pass along with to the students.  

Have you noticed that students tend to be more engaged when using iCivics resources? If so, why do you think that is?

I teach at the high school level and it is an early college and that means for our school that all our courses are honors and the main mission is for our students to receive a college degree along with their high school diploma.  With that being said much of the content on the ICivics website seems to be focused at the middle school level, and even with that, there are lessons that work for my course. How I incorporate ICivics with my students is on Wednesday which is designated "Current Event Day" the lessons are based on 18 current events that take all semester to complete.  Each week we look at a different issue and different parts of the Constitution and a lesson is created to give depth and understanding and that is where I will use ICivics resources such as this week where we are looking at "Week 10 Immigration Law Article I, Section 8, 4th and 14th Amendment" and use the game Immigration Nation as an opener to help students understand the process for gaining citizenship. I feel when students are able to see and take an active part of the learning, it becomes more than just a teacher "lecturing" to them, but the ability for them to process the information and gain their perspective with the understanding of the content.

How have you used iCivics’ to improve civic discourse in your classroom/district?

Yes, a part of lesson plans to be able to get up to date scholarship is vital to teaching in the 21st century and part of lesson planning is that there is never enough time, so with ICivics, the teacher portal is the section that I use the most.  I know that information is vetted and trusted by me. That is important is not to only give my students good lessons but to make sure that the information is truly correct.

How can educators use civic education to reverse students’ disillusionment with political processes?

I feel students don't know our political processes and that is the disillusionment.  The majority of my students come into my classroom as parrots with no understanding of the statement and comments that they make and definitely no grasp of the role that they play in the founding of this country.   I say founding because just like the "living documents" that we teach within civics, this country continues to be shaped and reshaped by the perspective and understanding of those primary resources.

Do you believe civic education is the key to developing future leaders?

"I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Political Science if it weren’t for you." These are the words that a 2017 graduate shared with me a couple of weeks ago.  Definitely not seeking compliments, but was glad to hear her passion. So, yes, it is our responsibility, our duty and should be our goal to develop future leaders.  This should not be the sole duty to those that teach history and social studies but for all teachers. Yet, for civics teachers, there is an added layer that I think we should all strive for teaching beyond the test, beyond the course. We should realize that we are teaching the people that will be running this country in five, ten and twenty years from now.  I know that is what I tell my students and I make them aware of the responsibilities of taking advantage of their own learning and creating their own destiny.

If you are interested in serving on the iCivics Educator Network or want more information, go here.