UD alumna named National History Teacher of the Year
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 02:10
Jill Szymanski, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Brandywine Springs School and an alumna of the university, has been chosen as National History Teacher of the Year for 2013 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Szymanski, who was up against more than 50 other teachers, said she was honored to have been chosen for the award.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which gives the Teacher of the Year Award, is “a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education.” GLIAH has a database of over 60,000 historical documents, called the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and offers support and programs for students and teachers in all 50 states, spokeswoman Joanna Byrne said.
Every year, teachers from every U.S. state and territory are nominated for Teacher of the Year by students, colleagues or principals, Byrne said. A committee selects a winner from each state, and these winners then compete for the national award, Byrne said. The first award was given in 2004, Byrne said.
Szymanski is the first-ever winner from Delaware, Byrne said. With the award comes $10,000, and Szymanski will attend an awards ceremony in New York.
Szymanski said she believes she was born to teach. She said she had wanted to be a teacher for as long as she could remember.
“I would come home from school each day, line up my stuffed animals in front of my chalkboard and play school,” Szymanski said. “As I got older, I did a lot of volunteer work with kids and worked at summer camps. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I never considered any other profession.”
Szymanski said she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. She said she has been teaching for 16 years, starting at Forest Oak Elementary School in Newark and then moving to Brandywine Springs School.
Szymanski said she received the award for a project she did with her fourth graders. Her students used primary sources to research a topic related to the Civil War and then created entries for the class’s “Civil War Museum.” Students made exhibits, paintings and movies, with some students dressing up as Civil War-era figures to reenact an event those figures were involved in, Szymanski said.