Throughout December and January, Humanities Texas has continued to join state and congressional representatives to present Texas teachers with Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities awards. Award recipients, such as Signe Peterson, have distinguished themselves through innovative teaching, curricular development, and extracurricular programming.

Ms. Peterson, who teaches eighth-grade U.S. history and coaches seventh-grade girls' basketball at South Houston Intermediate School, coordinates and chaperones an annual nine-day trip to Washington, D.C. for her students. Determined to extend the opportunity to students who may not be able to afford the package tours commonly used by school groups, Ms. Peterson employs fundraising strategies from bake sales to car washes and plans every aspect of the trip herself. The experience enhances her students' year of studies in American history, making history come alive. "My educational philosophy is simple: I want my students to love learning about history," she says. U.S. Congressman Gene Green joined Humanities Texas Executive Director Michael L. Gillette in recognizing Ms. Peterson on January 6, 2010.

Stacee Johnson, who teaches social studies and sponsors the student council at J.A. Vitovsky Elementary School in Midlothian, received her award on December 16, 2009. Ms. Johnson assigns her students an array of engaging projects, such as creating a living museum and dressing up as colonial residents to understand their way of life. "I believe that history should be learned not only by textbook or assessed only by answering questions," said Ms. Johnson. "Students must see the connections between the content and real life." State Representative Jim Pitts joined Humanities Texas program officer Liz Bohman Barger in presenting the award.

Congressman Lamar Smith presented Sally Hunter with her award on January 5, 2010, at the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin. Ms. Hunter teaches fourth grade and serves as social studies department chair at Highland Park Elementary School. Ms. Hunter integrates history, literature, philosophy, and the arts through innovative lesson plans. Her students read and perform Shakespeare, take virtual tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, design their own museum floor plans, and investigate the Renaissance era in depth. "Helping students make connections and create meaning is the deepest mission of any effective teacher. Evidence of those connections and understandings can be found in my students' writings and discussions," said Ms. Hunter.

Teachers who have been nominated for 2010 Outstanding Teaching Awards and wish to be considered must complete an application and mail it to Humanities Texas with a postmark date no later than February 15, 2010. Applications, along with other relevant information and a list of past winners are available online.

From left to right: U.S. Congressman Gene Green, Signe Peterson, and Michael L. Gillette.
From left to right: State Rep. Jim Pitts, J.A. Vitovsky Elementary Principal Cherie Wagoner, Liz Bohman Barger, Stacee Johnson, and Michael Taylor, representative from U.S. Congressman Joe Barton's office. Photo courtesy of the Waxahachie Daily Light.
Sally Hunter and U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith with members of Ms. Hunter's fourth-grade class.