2015 ALA Teacher of the Year Winners
HIGH SCHOOL ~ ROBERT A. PRIEST and JILL RENEE BAISINGER
MIDDLE SCHOOL ~ ROBERT VITELEO AMES
Van Wert High School, Van Wert, Ohio
ROBERT A.PRIEST, a well respected and dedicated educator, has been teaching American History and AP American Government in Van Wert and Archibald, Ohio public schools for over 22 years.
His first concern is solid content-rich instruction for his students. A former student described him as a humble man, devoted to his faith and the ideal teacher. Countless students have been taught life lessons along with their history and current events. In 1999, after attending a training institute on the “We the People” program, Mr. Priest was determined to get his students involved in the program. As a result, his teams have won several awards and have been State runners up for the past three years. His teaching style has been described as “authentic”. By “getting out from behind the podium,” he gets his students involved in first-hand experiences and grass roots efforts to insure their continued involvement in our legal system. They have worked on presidential campaigns and participated in Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions. Two students have actually represented themselves in court and using their knowledge and experience from Mock Trial, won their cases. As a result of Mr. Priest’s passion for teaching Government and History, many students have pursued law related careers. Mr. Priest served as District coordinator and a member of the planning committee for the Center for Civic Education. He has received many awards during his career including the Van Wert High School Teachers Who Make a Difference Award in 2012 and 2013; the 2005 Center for Civic Education Scholarship Teachers Award and has been named Who’s Who in American High School Teachers.
Jill Renee Baisinger
Cathedral High School, Indianapolis, Indiana
JILL RENEE BAISINGER is a vibrant and passionate educator at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. For 14 years, she has taught classes in AP Government, Economics, Law Education, and US History. By requiring her students to attend
local government school board, city council, and zoning committee meetings, they see first-hand how government works. She initiated “Court on Wheels”, whereby the Indiana Court of Appeals holds an oral argument at the school in front of junior and senior students. A colleague wrote that Ms. Baisinger has instilled her passion in her students; the colleague had to scold two students for discussing some amendments during math class. “The spark that she ignites in the young people makes her an outstanding teacher. The love and deep understanding she has for the Constitution makes her an outstanding government teacher!” She is a mentor and trainer for the Center for Civic Education where she has been training teachers and community leaders in the “We the People” curriculum. Her students have won multiple competitions at the State and National levels. This year her students won the prestigious “Central States Regional Award” at the Final completion in Washington, D.C. As the Social Studies State Coordinator for the Indiana Department of Education, she developed programs that involve students in Indiana Statehood Day, Central Forum, and Constitution Day. She coaches the school’s Model UN program because she feels “we’re not just citizens of the United States but of the world….Students should be knowledgeable about how the United States interacts with other nations. Her dedication to students helps them realize their responsibilities and rights as citizens of this nation.
MIDDLE SCHOOL ~ ROBERT VITELIO AMES
Oyster Adams Bilingual School, Washington D.C.
ROBERT V. AMES earned a JD degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and was a public Defender in the District of Columbia representing indigent juveniles and adults charged with misdemeanors and felonies. Having compassion for individuals who did not seem to understand the legal system, he changed careers and became a teacher. He then attained a Master of Arts of Teaching in English for Speakers of Other Languages. He joined the staff of Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Washington, D.C. There he combined his love and respect of the law with an interest in “incorporating legal education into the curriculum in new and innovative ways”. His eighth grade students study the U.S. Constitution, present day judicial decisions, and how the Constitution still impacts these decisions. The students prepare for a mock trial, which includes oral arguments, appropriate demeanor for court, and oral advocacy. The students then present their arguments before Judge Puig-Lugo, the presiding Judge of Family Court in D.C. This starts with a courthouse tour, which includes the role of participants in the legal system and is followed by oral arguments before the judge in his courtroom with the entire eighth grade assembled. Judge Puig-Lugo gives a ruling and explanation of the ruling. All of this is conducted in Spanish. His principal writes that Mr. Ames has developed an innovative way of incorporating legal education in the eighth curriculum. He is an educator with a distinguished level rating who teaches eighth grade U.S. History in Spanish to 64 students. His program impacts students from diverse backgrounds and affords them an opportunity to learn more about law in an unusual and creative way.