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Passion for history wins state award for Pierce

Rowan-Salisbury School System
Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Theresa Pierce has been selected as the 2009 North Carolina Gilder Lehrman Preserve American History Teacher of the Year winner.
As a state finalist, Pierce will now become eligible to compete this fall for the national title, which will be awarded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Recognized for her love of history and for her creative “out of the box” teaching methods, Pierce acknowledges her belief in teaching to various learning styles.
“Focusing on the learner when I teach makes it meaningful to them,” says Pierce. “It will lead them to a better appreciation for the past. Taking field trips, handling artifacts, and acting out history makes history relevant.”
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History honors outstanding teachers of American history from across the country and promotes the study and love of American history. The History Teacher of the Year Award recognizes outstanding American history teachers from elementary school through high school for their efforts in teaching the crucial importance of American history education. Finalists are selected from each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and U.S. Territories. From these winners, a national honoree is recognized as the National History Teacher of the Year.
Along with receiving this prestigious award, Pierce will also receive a $1,000 honorarium and the Rowan-Salisbury School System will receive a core archive of history books and materials from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for the district’s library.
“I couldn’t be happier and more proud of Theresa in receiving this honor,” says Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “Our students benefit from Theresa’s love of history and the creative way she invites students into learning about our history. I am not surprised at all that Theresa was chosen to receive this prestigious honor.”
To qualify for the award, Pierce was required to have a minimum of three years of classroom experience in teaching American history in an elementary school; a deep career commitment to teaching American history, which includes local and state history; evidence of creativity and imagination in the classroom that address literacy and content beyond state standards; close attention to primary documents, artifacts, historic sites, and other primary materials of history, including oral history; and evidence of thoughtful assessment of student achievement.
Working towards her graduate degree at Catawba College, Pierce has worked for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools since 1997. Currently at Horizons Unlimited, Theresa is the history specialist, a position she has held since March of 2008.
Prior positions Pierce has held within the school district include literacy / curriculum coach at Shive, Overton, and Woodleaf elementary schools and teaching for nine years at Morgan and Granite Quarry elementary schools.
Pierce became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2005.
As a history specialist at Horizons, Pierce is responsible for creating partnerships with the N.C. Transportation Museum, Rowan History Museum, Catawba College and the Rowan County History Club to create outreach programs for students to visit and learn on-site at historical locations in our community such as the Hall House, the Old Stone House, the Utzman- Chambers House and the National Cemetery.
“Theresa is one of those teachers who reaches out into the community,” says Lisa Wear, director of Horizons Unlimited. “Theresa brings in resources to the schools that we would not have access to otherwise. She creates unique learning environments that bring history to life with a ‘please touch, feel and experience’ approach to history education within the framework of the NC Standard Course of Study.” Through Pierce’s position at Horizons, all students in the Rowan-Salisbury School District have the advantage of benefiting from her love of history.
Theresa is constantly commended for her visual presentation to students.
“Donning the proper historical interpretative attire and accessories, she forces students to think and visualize their past and takes them beyond the printed page of a history book,” says Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of the Rowan Museum, Inc. “I know that as today’s students age and look back on their school days, they will remember Theresa as the lady who wore the ‘funny clothes’ and brought our historic sites to life for them.”
Pierce says the best awards she could ever receive come from watching her students grow and develop an understanding and appreciation of history. She smiles warmly and her eyes sparkle when she quotes one of her students as saying to her, “I did not like history, but you showed me history is important in my life.”
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is known for its scholarly seminars for K-12 teachers and National Park Service interpreters. In 2009, the institute will offer 40 seminars for nearly 1,200 teachers at institutions throughout the United States and Great Britain. For more information about the Gilder Lehrman Institute, please visit their Web site at: www.gilderlehrman.org

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