AUGUST 21, 2014
Before leaving for iCivics training mid July, I assumed that the highlight of the trip would be meeting Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice. Upon returning from iCivics training, I’ve realized the true highlight was being able to meet and collaborate with twenty-two other motivated, creative, intelligent teachers who are the iCivics Teachers Council.
The amazing iCivics team prepared an impressive line-up of events for the two day iCivics training at Georgetown Law Center. Our workshop began with dinner at the U.S. Supreme Court with iCivics founder, Justice O’Connor- a truly memorable experience. The following day we learned about the current state of civic education throughout the nation from policy experts Ted McConnell (Civic Mission of Schools) and Abby Kiesa (CIRCLE). iCivics Programming Director, Carrie Ray-Hill provided tutorials on new games, lesson plans, and products. We learned about iCivics’ goals, services, and vision from Erin Braun, and discussed the role social media can play in letting people know about the importance of civic education and all that iCivics can offer from Amber Coleman-Mortley. Emma Humphries, Teacher Council lead teacher, spoke to us about how to work with other teachers and support their use of iCivics in their classrooms. Finally, we listened to some of Justice O’Connor’s former law clerks, now impressive attorneys in their own right. They shared some of the inner workings of the Supreme Court and a few fun stories about working for Justice O’Connor. It was clear from meeting Justice O’Connor, and meeting those who worked with her closely, that she has an uncanny knack for high standards, high intelligence, and a matter of fact nature, which she balances with a charismatic, fun-loving spirit of enjoying the moment. I think the members of the Teacher Council embody many ofthese characteristics as well.
The Teachers Council developed goals for supporting teachers, centered around an idea of providing support to existing iCivics teachers while using technology to share resources and collaborate across the country. We hope to capitalize on our individual strengths to best help other iCivics teachers. We worked hard each day to learn, collaborate, and brainstorm action plans during our limited time. But it wasn’t all business, we also took time to get to know each other on a more personal level and embrace every free moment whether it was enjoying the view from the Georgetown Law Center, indulging in delicious Georgetown Cupcakes, or taking “Supreme Court selfies” like true government nerds!
I left the iCivics Teachers Council Conference elated, motivated, and energized. During my time as a teacher I’ve had the good fortune of working with many outstanding teachers and leaders. But until this week, I had yet to work with a group so compatible, focused, intelligent, collaborative, and driven toward a common goal as the iCivics Teacher Council. As Justice O’Connor stated during our dinner at the Supreme Court, “In order for our system of government to work, people must understand it, care about it, and see how they are a part of it.” The Teachers Council endeavors to work toward that goal by supporting iCivics teachers throughout the country as they use interactive games and engaging lessons to teach their students about the importance of maintaining our democracy.
Erica Schnee is a National Board Certified Social Studies teacher at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana. In addition to being a member of the iCivics Teachers Council she is the chair of the National Council for Social Studies Government Policy-Public Policy Committee. She loves meeting new people and traveling to new places. Twitter: @MsSchneeGov
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