Building on the success of our summer teacher institutes, Humanities Texas hosted a series of five teacher workshops on the U. S. Constitution in October. Teachers from across the state gathered at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, the University of Houston, Texas A&M International University in Laredo, and The University of Texas at El Paso, for day-long programs that included lectures, primary source discussions, and brainstorming.
The programs' timing was no coincidence. Humanities Texas scheduled these workshops in October, just weeks before most teachers begin their units on the Constitution. Test results from past years indicate that eighth-grade students find the Constitution to be one of the most challenging topics in the U.S. history curriculum.
Once again, these programs brought Texas teachers together with leading scholars from around the country, including Pulitzer Prize–winner and Stanford University professor Jack N. Rakove, who delivered keynote lectures in Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. Lorri Glover of Saint Louis University opened the program in Laredo, and Steven R. Boyd of The University of Texas at San Antonio gave the keynote address in El Paso. Educational specialists from the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration and Law-Related Education also participated, providing teachers with valuable tools and resources for the classroom.
Participants heard four lectures in the morning, and then worked closely with each presenter during afternoon primary source workshops. This opportunity for discussion with faculty members is always one of the highlights of Humanities Texas's programs for teachers. One teacher wrote in an evaluation, "[The] primary source workshops were fantastic—very informative!" An El Paso teacher commented: "Of the [professional development programs] I've attended so far, I enjoyed this one the most. I felt like I learned many new things that I can implement in the classroom. The presenters are very knowledgeable and all had an interesting way of delivering their presentations that was mentally stimulating." Another participant simply wrote, "One of the best professional development classes I have ever attended." These comments are representative of the enthusiasm of all the teachers who participated and reflect the continued success of Humanities Texas's teacher enrichment programs.
Humanities Texas offered these workshops at no cost to teachers or their schools. For workshops held during the week, we reimbursed each teacher's school for the cost of a substitute for the day of the workshop. Teachers who attended the Saturday workshop in Houston received a stipend.
Through these programs, teachers expand their knowledge of U.S. history and gain a wealth of useful resources. Humanities Texas is already planning workshops for the spring and summer of 2011 that address other topics central to the state's social studies curriculum.
These programs are made possible with major funding from the state of Texas and a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.