History of St. Louis Teaching Team Awarded AHA Teaching Prize

The American Historical Association, the largest professional organization serving historians, announced this week that the MICDS History of St. Louis teaching team is this year’s recipient of their award for K-12 teachers. The Beveridge Family Teaching Prize, established in 1995, is bestowed by the AHA on one individual or group each year, and recognizes excellence and innovation in elementary, middle school, or secondary history teaching, including career contributions and specific initiatives. The AHA, which is committed to history education and the professional work of historians, selected the History of St. Louis teaching team out of a wide pool of nominees to receive this award for the work that they have done in crafting the course, now in its fourth year.

“We’re thrilled to be recognized by the American Historical Association with this honor,” JK-12 History & Social Sciences Chair Carla Federman said. “When we originally designed this course, at the center of our planning was the MICDS mission of helping students be responsible citizens who can meet the challenges of the world with confidence and embrace all its people with compassion. Studying local history gives students the opportunity to connect with their community, build empathy, and enhance their sense of agency, all while they delve into the connections between past and present.”

Federman leads the team, which also includes Jason Asher, Max Campbell, Andy Cox, Alex Rolnick, and Elizabeth Wells.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of the significant effort that this teaching team puts into ensuring that this class is both a highlight of our curriculum and an extraordinary opportunity for our students to wrestle with authentic and immediate issues in their community,” Head of Upper School Scott Small said. “Between organizing the field trip in September to daily ensuring our students are thinking critically and compassionately about the city and our region, these teachers put time and energy into a truly impressive endeavor.”

The team thrives on collaboration, and the History of St. Louis course is one of the best examples of how faculty bring their unique skills to create a powerful learning experience. For instance, Rolnick is a transplant to St. Louis, and he has enjoyed learning about his new home while offering an outsider’s perspective to the class. “As someone who only moved to St. Louis in 2021, I love how I will drive down a road or visit a site of interest, and have an ‘aha’ moment, connecting what I learned from my colleagues and their materials, or in a book, to a physical place,” he said. “I loved seeing students do the same thing during our St. Louis tours.”

The AHA chose to award this year’s prize to the team not only for their collaboration, but for their innovation and focus on inquiry-based and student-centered learning that ties past to present. Every MICDS student takes History of St. Louis in the fall of their junior year, where they build a variety of History & Social Science skills while also becoming problem-solvers and change-makers. In addition, while exploring urban studies, students are able to take advantage of local resources. For instance, students spend a day touring various parts of the city in September, and throughout the semester students hear from individuals and panelists who are leaders and experts in the city. Students have the chance to participate in discussions with business executives and politicians, social workers and storytellers, and more.

The Beveridge Family Teaching Prize also recognized the course’s ability to adapt as events in the region take place. For instance, last year, after news of COVID-19 funds flowing into St. Louis emerged, teachers took advantage of the timing and had students build a grant proposal, where students recommended uses for those funds based on what they had learned. This project focused on allowing students to be problem-solvers in a real-world situation, while also requiring them to incorporate the historical knowledge that they’d gained over the course of the semester in building their proposals. Rolnick said, “I’m in only my second year of teaching the class, and it’s been awesome to see how open the original members of the team are to making changes. I know we’ll continue to revise the curriculum to ensure students are actively engaged in developing deep, interesting, and relevant knowledge of St. Louis history.”

Dr. Sally Maxwell, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning, sees the History of St. Louis class as a powerful model of team teaching and instructional design. She said, “It helps students understand St. Louis as a unique place to grow up, a case study that helps them become researchers who know how to ask questions and collect data on the economic, social, and political history of a city, and a microcosm of the forces and tensions that make up American history. We are so proud of this class and see it as an exemplar of how to be a teacher, student, and citizen.”

“Our hope is that students leave this course with a better sense of the region in which they live, but also an understanding of how that came to be, an ability to apply that knowledge to other cities, and a recognition that they as individuals have a role to play in their community,” Federman added. “We’re honored to accept this year’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize.”

Congratulations to this talented team of teachers for their well-deserved recognition by the American Historical Association!