Teachers travel the country to better learn U.S. history

A look back • Program helps educators inspire students to understand their roots.
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Standing in front of a room full of history teachers at EnergySolutions Arena, Sarah Olds recalled her favorite memory of the summer. It was meeting her hero, Thomas Jefferson. She fanned her face as her eyes welled up, just remembering the talk she had with our third president.

"One of things that changed my life forever was hearing him speak of freedom and the writing of the Declaration of Independence," Olds said. "It was in his words, and in a voice that I just knew was the same as Thomas Jefferson's really would have been."

As she finished her speech, Olds made it a point to hug Gail Miller on her way back to her seat. Miller happily accepted.

"I want to be in your class," Miller said.

The event at EnergySolutions Arena was the culmination of this year's Driven 2 Teach program. In 2007, Larry H. Miller had a conversation with historian David McCullough about their passion for history and the need for better teaching and greater learning in the classroom. That small seed grew into Driven 2 Teach, a field study that Gail Miller has chosen to continue funding after her husband's death.

This summer, through sponsorships from the Miller family and Zions Bank, Driven 2 Teach brought more than 75 local teachers on three excursions, immersing them in history.

For Olds and her group, it was a trip to Colonial Williamsburg to meet re-enactors portraying Jefferson and Ben Franklin. For others, like Russ McKell, it was exploring daily life in New Spain in Santa Fe, N.M.

"It was about making connections as a group learning about an underappreciated part of American history," McKell said. "We were able to experience the ancient culture of the Puebloans, study the art of the Navajo and stand on the roads forged by the Spanish."

The final trip took a group of teachers to Boston and Philadelphia. While there, they threw boxes of tea overboard in Boston Bay and ran up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky Balboa.

Driven 2 Teach allows educators in Utah to apply for the program as well as nominate their co-workers. Each field study requires assigned readings, pedagogy meetings and journal writing.

Miller said she firmly believes passionate history teachers are an important step toward preserving our heritage.

"Children are our messengers to a time we will never see," Miller said to the group. "What we teach them today will make a huge impact toward the kind of tomorrow they'll live in."


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At a glance

The goal of the Driven 2 Teach program is to use hands-on seminars to inform, inspire and support better classroom teaching.

Through its website, www.driven2teach.org, teachers are able to collaborate and share lesson plans in an online message board.

With the success of this year's field studies, the program plans to offer the same trips to Utah teachers again next year.