2016 ALA Teacher of the Year Winners
HIGH SCHOOL ~ HOLLY KARTCHNER and NATALIE O’BRIEN
MIDDLE SCHOOL ~ MICHAEL D. SEGER
Blackfoot High School, Blackfoot, Idaho
HOLLY KARTCHNER is a passionate teacher of government, history, law, and communications at Blackfoot High School in Blackfoot, Idaho.
For the past twelve years, she has expanded the walls of her classroom with unforgettable learning opportunities. In her first year, she attended teacher training for the We the People program in Jackson, Wyoming. She implemented the program into her curriculum the next year. In her third year of teaching, her students were Idaho State Champions who participated in the national competition in Washington, D.C.
Her students have competed in the national competion in Washington, D.C. for the past nine years; and, in each of the past three years, her teams have won awards at the national level, a first for any Idaho school.
Her students gain a broad perspective from presentations by attorneys, judges, doctors, business owners, military leaders and legislators – and through interactive Skype sessions with influential people in other countries. Recently, after discussing Syrian refugees, she arranged a Skype session with Syrian teenagers who fled the violence in Syria to Gotland, Sweden. Her students then raised money for a sewing machine and material to help the families of the Syrian teenagers.
Holly is truly an exemplary teacher, and the accomplishments of her students are testimony of her worth. Ms. Lauren Murdoch, Briefing Attorney to the Honorable Darren B. Simpson, wrote the following; “What I see in Holly’s tireless efforts to motivate her students is a grassroots campaign to build better, more informed citizens. They leave Holly’s classroom with a fundamental appreciation for our system of government and the role played by our legislators, our judiciary, and our citizens. Such knowledge benefits our future as a nation.” Dylan Neff, a former student, described his experience in Holly’s classroom with this quote from Thomas Jefferson; “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” The two main points he drew from this quote were the principles he felt he learned Mrs. Kartchner’s class; liberty stems from the people, not elected or appointed officials, and the equal rights of all individuals are a prerequisite to that liberty.
Holly received a Congressional James Madison Fellowship and the American Civics Education Teacher Award in2015. She completed her master’s Degree in History, Political Science and Law while teaching and coaching her We the People teams.
North Smithfield High School, North Smithfield, Rhode Island
NATALIE O’BRIEN, a strong proponent of civic education since 2002, has been teaching at North Smithfield High School in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, since 2000. Ms. O’Brien received a bachelor of Arts from Providence College, a Master of Arts in East Asian Studies from St. John’s University and a Masters in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island.
Early in her teaching career, she received life-changing professional development from the Center for Civic education. This week-long institute at Northeastern University introduced her to the We the People program and transformed her teaching.
Equipped with many professional development workshops, as well as the incredible experience of receiving a James Madison Fellowship and a Teaching American History Grant, Natalie has worked hard to reach her students.In addition to engaging in deleted, simulations, and discussions in her classroom, she focuses on active involvement in civics and law-related activities.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Natalie had her Advanced Placement U. S. Government and Politics students travel to New Hampshire to work on two presidential campaigns, and she brought many important local leaders into the classroom to share their first-hand experiences with the students.
Most recently, her freshman class won their state We the People competition and traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Finals against mostly juniors and seniors enrolled in AP classes. The students not only were able to finish in the top half of this prestigious competition, but were also able to hear Supreme Court arguments, meet with their two State Senators, and watch debate on the Senate floor while visiting the nation’s Capital.
Bringing law and civics to life is important for both the individual and the greater society; Ms. O’Brien tries to do this on a daily basis at North Smithfield High School. Ms. O’Brien has also received the prestigious American Civic Education Teacher Award from the Center for Civic Education and the Susan B. Wilson Civic Educator Award.
MIDDLE SCHOOL ~ MICHAEL D. SEGER
Howard Middle School, Orlando, Florida