TIS teacher one of 35 in nation selected for conference

Thompson Intermediate School fifth-grader Ann Jay Harrison visits the Liberty Bell during a recent trip to an American history conference. (Contributed)

Thompson Intermediate School fifth-grader Ann Jay Harrison visits the Liberty Bell during a recent trip to an American history conference. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – When Thompson Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher Ann Jay Harrison began the 2016-2017 school year on Aug. 11, she said she had a renewed passion for what she was doing.

“This is my 26th year teaching. All of a sudden, I am so excited again about teaching in the classroom,” Harrison said. “It definitely renewed my passion.”

From July 24-29, Harrison was one of only 35 teachers from across the nation who was chosen to attended a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History seminar at Princeton University.

The seminar focused on American history before the Revolutionary War, and sought to strengthen teachers’ use of promoting primary sources in their students’ work.

“Primary sources are things like books, maps, journals, really anything from that time period,” Harrison said. “It’s about getting away from just teaching from a textbook and really getting them involved in that time period.”

Last school year, Harrison heard about the conference and went through the application process, which included penning a 500-word essay explaining her love for teaching American history in her fifth-grade classroom. Shortly thereafter, she received notice she had been selected to attend.

“I didn’t realize what an honor it was until I got up there and other teachers were saying ‘I’ve applied four or five times, and I finally got selected,’” Harrison said. “There were only 35 teachers chosen from across the nation, and I was the only one from Alabama.”

In addition to hearing from Messiah College professor Dr. John Fea, Harrison and her fellow attendees also had a chance to see literature from the 1600s and 1700s – including one of the original prints of the Declaration of Independence – and toured Philadelphia.

She said the experience gave her many new ideas to incorporate in her classroom, and said she is hoping to instill a love for history in her students.

“There are so many kids, and even some adults, who don’t like history,” she said. “I think it depends on the teacher they have growing up.

“I’m so passionate about history,” Harrison added. “It moves me to think so many of us are connected to that time period, and we don’t even realize it.”