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Chicago-Area Students and Teachers Win Awards at Nat’l History Competition

Two local students won gold medals, and two teachers received Teacher of the Year honors yesterday, Thursday, June 19, 2014 at the National History Day Award Ceremony in College Park, Maryland. The Chicago Metro History Education Center (C.M.H.E.C.) stated this was “the culmination of several months of activity that began with the Chicago Metro History Fair and continued through the Illinois History Expo.”

Mary Kate Baughman from Immanuel Lutheran School in Palatine finished first in the federation in the Junior Individual Exhibit category for her project, "The Living Dead: The Radium Dial Painters of Ottawa, Illinois and Their Impact on Workplace Safety." Kristen Rigsby of Taft Academic Center in Chicago finished first in the Junior Individual Website category for her project, "Robert McCormick: Defining the Rights and Responsibilities of a Free Press." Young Ms. Rigsby also won the US Constitutional History Award at the competition.

Meanwhile, Aggie Przeslicke, a teacher at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago, received the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award for Illinois. "It is a great honor to have my efforts acknowledged, particularly since I teach at a general neighborhood high school in Chicago at a time when schools such as mine are criticized for low performance and threatened with closure or turnaround," said Przeslicke. "The teachers I know in our school and district are hard-working, dedicated people who often struggle against tremendous odds and obstacles to help students succeed."

Donna Beck, a teacher at Saint Luke Academy in Chicago, was selected to receive the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award for middle school teachers in Illinois. "Recognition at the national level for working with students on a project that I believe is so valuable and life-changing seems unfathomable," said Ms. Beck. "Students grow so much from the History Fair experience, and their success is my success. To receive a national award for something I believe is so crucial in a students' educational life, is something I never would have imagined."

The Anchorage School District posted all the winners of the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award Winners by state:

• Alaska - Heidi Imhof, Debra LaRue
• American Samoa - Steven Misaalefua, Tamara Tiavea
• Arkansas - Darren Vaughn, Bill Topich
• Arizona - Ron Bahre
• California - Mary Ong-Dean, Raymond Lopez
• China – Brenda Petersen
• Colorado - Elizabeth Milligan, Kristen Lewis
• Connecticut - Jennifer Hunt, D. Claude Morest
• Florida - Leslie Porges, Dennis Dill
• Georgia - Chris Shelnutt, Amy Hendrix
• Guam - Vince Leon Guerrero, Anthony Blas
• Hawaii - Sarah Lowrey Razee
• Idaho - Jami McLing
• Illinois - Donna Beck, Aggie Przeslicke
• Indiana - Richard G. Vander Woude, Dave Wheeler
• Iowa - Patty Lien, Kirsten Doebel
• Kansas - Alice Bertels
• Kentucky - Ashley Adkins
• Korea – Sharon Gillette
• Louisiana - Michael Cilano, Tara Cox
• Maryland - Leah Renzi, Mark S. Howell
• Massachusetts - Bryan McGraw, Ilyse Mahoney
• Michigan - Abigail Kuhn, Traci Welch
• Minnesota - Josh Nutter, Carley Kregness
• Mississippi – Kimberly Jordan, Heidi Battles
• Missouri - Maureen Funk, J. Paul Arnold
• Nebraska - Melissa Stern, Ann M. Mays
• Nevada - Lindsey Clewell, Jeanine Zelik
• New Hampshire - Skye Devarney, Molly K. Stevenson
• New Jersey - Jane Okma, Jayne O'Neill
• New Mexico - Danya Jones, Allen Andraski
• New York - Judy Sokolow
• North Carolina - Kimberly T. Jamison, Lisa Dillon
• North Dakota - Jewel Marie Lyons, Vern Huber
• Ohio - Judith Darus, Krista Buckley, Kathy Arnold
• Oklahoma - Penny Heath
• Oregon - Lorin Kubishta
• Pennsylvania - Josh Elders, Kevin Wagner
• Puerto Rico - Yanira Borges
• Rhode Island - Vanessa Miller, Edward Kimmerlein
• South Asia – Jonathan Steely, Jonathan Boyd
• South Carolina - Waylon A. Ross, Adam Powley
• South Dakota - Lauren Olson
• Tennessee - Chris Standridge, Scott Johnson
• Texas - Patrick Browder, Barbi Binnig
• Utah - Sara Hacken
• Vermont - Tyler Willis, Erin Cohn
• Virginia - Rory Dippold, Holly Frazier
• Washington - Mary Jo Macala, James Sawatski
• Washington, D.C. - Yvonne Simpson-Wayne, Matthew Malone
• West Virginia - Daniel J. Cosgrove
• Wisconsin - Michael Cirillo, Katherine Haig
• Wyoming - Mitch Irrgang, Kristy Richmond

Over seventy students from Illinois presented their research projects during the N.H.D. competition this week. A total of six projects from Illinois qualified for the finals.

In addition to Mary Kate Baughman and Kristen Rigsby, Leah Hall, Irena Gao, Faith Golz, Marissa Ivory of Unity Point SD 140 took 5th in the Nation in the category Junior Group Website for “The Prager Case: Patriotic Murder.” Zoe Cloud of the Science and Arts Academy took 10th in the Nation in the category Junior Paper for “The Cholera Epidemics of the 1800s and How They Shaped a City.”

Katie Schindler of the Science and Arts Academy also took 10th in the Nation, but in the category Junior Documentary for Protecting Our Prisoners: The Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study and its Impacts on Human Subjects Research. Leticia Garcia and Diana Franco of Roosevelt High School took 11th in the Nation in the category Junior Group Website for “From ‘White Slavery’ to Widespread Vice in Chicago: Implications for Women’s Rights”

"The remarkable achievements of Illinois students at NHD should make the whole state proud," said C.M.H.E.C. Executive Director Frank Valadez. "The students--and their teachers--work very hard for months, and it's great to see the fantastic achievements that result from those efforts."

"National History Day firmly believes that quality teachers are the best educational tools that students have," said Cathy Gorn, Executive Director of National History Day. "The history teachers selected as Behring award recipients are a credit to their discipline, and exemplify what it takes to truly be a quality educator."

The C.M.H.E.C. stated, “Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award winners are NHD participating teachers who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom. Their work must clearly illustrate the development and use of creative teaching methods that interest students in history and help them make exciting discoveries about the past, and a commitment to helping students develop their interest in history and recognize their achievements. NHD selects from the pool of state awardees one high school teacher and one middle school teacher to receive the national teaching award. Teachers are nominated by their administrators, peers, or self for the award. Each participating state is allowed to select one high school and one middle school teachers to receive the state award and consideration for the national award.”

These teachers and students will be honored again at a reception at the Newberry Library on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Thanks to in-kind support from The Newberry Library, the C.M.H.E.C. will mount the fourth annual Blue Ribbon Student Exhibition at the Newberry Library from Friday, June 27, 2014 through Friday, July 11, 2014.

The exhibition will include projects from many of the National History Day participants from Illinois, including Ms. Baughman and Ms. Rigsby. It will be open to the public during the hours that the Library is open.

Each year, more than 15,000 students from over 100 schools, in the Chicago metropolitan area create projects on topics in local and state history for the Chicago Metro History Fair, a year-long education program coordinated by C.M.H.E.C. that engages students in sixth-through-twelfth-grades with the process of discovery and interpretation of historical topics. Students from the Chicago area qualify for N.H.D. by competing at the school, regional, and metro History Fair events, after which, the best projects advance to the Illinois History Expo held in Springfield each May. These history fairs are modeled on science fairs.

The C.M.H.E.C. partners with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to coordinate the Illinois History Expo and the participation of Illinois students at N.H.D. About three dozen projects advance from the Illinois History Expo to the N.H.D. competition each year.

An independent, non-profit, educational organization that serves students, teachers, and parents in Chicago and suburban Cook, Lake, Kane, and DuPage counties the mission of C.M.H.E.C. is to spark students' interest in the study of history, help them build high-level thinking skills, engage them in civic life, and foster their intellectual self-confidence. Through History Fair and other programs and activities, the C.M.H.E.C. promotes a project-based, inquiry method of learning history that encourages students to research the history of their community.

The Newberry Library, the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago History Museum, and the University of Illinois at Chicago sponsor the C.M.H.E.C. It receives major grant support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. It receives additional support from numerous other local foundations and corporations. Its offices are located at The Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois 60610.