Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Labor History Teacher Fellowship
The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Labor History Teacher Fellowship was launched in 2014. The goal is to build a sustainable statewide learning community of classroom language arts, social studies, and history teachers in grades 6–12 for teaching hands-on, inquiry based U.S. history through the lens of race and class in Mississippi history.
The partners for this effort include: Mississippi State Department of Education, the Civil Rights & Social Justice Initiatives at Tougaloo College, the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute, the COFO Civil Rights Education Center, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement,Inc., International Museum of Muslim Cultures, the Margaret Walker Archives at Jackson State University, the Right Question Institute, Mississippi History Day, and the University of Southern Mississippi.
The funding for the fellowship program is provided by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Teaching for Change called “Nurturing a Teacher Learning Community for Student Achievement and Civic Engagement through Mississippi History.”
Mississippi teachers can learn more and apply here.
Below are the teacher fellows selected in 2014.
Social Studies in Attala County
Glendolyn Crowell teaches at Kosciusko High School in Kosciusko, MS. She has been teaching for 20 years focusing on U.S. history over the past 10 years. When teaching about the Civil Rights Movement, Crowell realizes the difficulty in introducing sensitive material to her students, but doesn’t shy away from it. She states “I do not want to be a part of the problem, I want to be a part of the solution that brings all races together for the betterment of our society. I want to help my students understand and confront the unpleasant acts of the past to help them gain strength to move into the future.”
Crowell focuses on using primary documents in her classes. She wants to represent real life stories that her students are interested in hearing. Crowell wants to attend the institute in order to, “gain knowledge to present interesting, engaging, innovative lessons to “spur” the interest of my students so they when they leave my classroom each day, they cannot wait to come back the next day.”
Social Studies in Attala County
Jessica Dickens has been teaching for six years and has spent the last three of those years in the Kosciusko School District. Dickens uses primary documents as the foundation for classroom debates to discuss issues of race, class, and U.S. history as a whole.
This was evident in an activity about the dropping of the atomic bomb. Dickens states, “Using a lesson involving the dropping of the atomic bomb, I used primary source documents from the Stanford History Curriculum. Students were in small groups, read the documents, took notes using a graphic organizer, then had a debate on whether the bomb should have been dropped or not. As the debate progressed, students changed sides, as their opinions changed. At the conclusion of the debate, students had to write a short essay coming to a consensus while highlighting both sides of the argument.
“Using history to understand the social issues of present society is my passion. To try to help students also feel passion about society’s ills is my intention. When passion and knowledge combine, students care to learn, and are equipped to improve society once they leave my classroom and graduate from high school.”
Social Studies in Attala County
Susan Nail teaches at Kosciusko High School in Kosciusko, MS. She has been teaching geography, Mississippi Studies, and World History for seven years. Nail facilitates classroom discussions on labor and/or civil rights issues, especially those related to Mississippi. She encourages her students to step into the perspective of those being discussed; to put themselves in their shoes and walk the journey that they have walked. She stresses to her students that “it is important to be familiar with our past, in order to know what needs to be done to secure our future.”
Social Studies in Benton County
Ayesha Brooks teaches at Ashland High School in Ashland, MS. She has been teaching Mississippi studies, world geography, world history and American government/economics for eight years. Her classes focus on project based learning. She strives to help her students acquire in-depth knowledge by conducting research which makes history a lot more interesting. Ayesha is excited about all of the opportunities that the fellowship will bring. She stated, “I feel that being accepted into this program with enhance my teaching of the subject matter and in turn enhance my students willingness to learn more about our great state.” When talking about her family history, Brooks noted, “My dad made sure all of his kids graduated high school and college. I joined this fellowship for him and the many others who feel that they may not matter.”
Librarian in Benton County
Renee Hooper has been in education for 12 years. She is the school librarian at Ashland High School and Ashland Middle School in Ashland, MS. As the librarian, Hooper ensures that the school community has the materials it needs. She states, “My role is to support the education of my students and the curriculum of the teachers with the best resources and researched information that would enhance the quality of education that is being delivered. Importantly, this support is done through the method of being knowledgeable of our history, assisting students with lessons and projects, co-teaching with teachers, and making available resources that would be valuable to the students improved understanding of our history.”
Through the fellowship, Hooper hopes to continue to add resources to both libraries in order to make each library the “heartbeat of the school.” She would like to build a strong network with other individuals and learn from their experiences in order to enhance the quality of education for her students.
English in Forrest County
Alma McDonald has taught at Hattiesburg High School for 14 years. McDonald believes that history should be taught to show students how the events of the past have a direct impact on what is happening today. This is done using a variety of techniques.
McDonald explains, “My students create newsletters, power points and even videos to demonstrate their understanding of a subject. They use web quests, interviews and basic research skills to seek out information for themselves. I believe in giving them guidance, but not giving them all the answers.
“Students are changing and teachers need to incorporate more creative and interesting methods to capture their attention and keep them engaged. I want to be able to give them the best instruction possible. I want them to walk out of my classroom, not just saying, ‘Hey, that was interesting’ and then moving on to the next thing. I want them to walk out of my classroom not only with an understanding of the history, but with a desire to know more and a hunger to change the world – just like those who came before them.”
Social Studies in Forrest County
Tristal Watson has taught at N.R. Burger Middle School for four years. In her class, Watson focuses on having her students think more critically and objectively about content introduced. One example was during a unit on the institution of slavery. She states “In order to make students think more objectively, I make them write from the perspective of slaves, free blacks, slave owners, poor whites and finally, themselves. Therefore, they get a broader view and are more inclined to share their thoughts aloud when writing from another perspective. I encourage critical thinking on all levels.”
Watson is eager to share what she learns with her colleagues after the fellowship. She explains “As the 7th grade history department head, I know that I could share my experiences and new found knowledge with my colleagues and help us to become stronger as a unit. I am excited about the opportunity and would love to increase my knowledge and enhance my teaching skills through this fellowship.
“Many times, it is difficult for a teacher to really expose students to this rich history without touching on sensitive issues. However, I believe that our history is so important that it must be taught. The fellowship program will help me to get more insight into labor and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and enable me to become a better teacher.”
Social Studies in Harrison County
Cristina Tosto has taught at Gulfport Central Middle School for three years. She incorporates Mississippi history in relation to larger American events through the lens of race and class.
Tosto wants her students to have a solid of understanding of the world around them. “No matter what the event or time period, I like my students to explore and be aware of varying points of view.
“My perception of Mississippi and the South is from a Northern point of view. Being able to come up with interactive lessons that incorporate higher order thinking requires deep knowledge of the content. Through this fellowship I hope to acquire a deeper knowledge of Mississippi history and to transfer that to my students by inquiry-based, hands-on lessons.”
English in Hinds County
Lynne Schneider currently teaches at Murrah High School. She has been teaching for 18 years. Schneider seeks to connect students to local historical figures that had an impact on a national level. She states, “I began to use the story of Medgar Evers and Where is the Voice Coming From? as well as Margaret Walker Alexander’s poem Micah. Students learn about the Civil Rights Movement and specific English objectives, such as diction, characterization, and figurative language. Maybe more importantly, they are reminded that a major hero of the Civil Rights Movement AND two acclaimed authors lived in their hometown.”
Focusing historical events is necessary, however, Schneider want students to connect history to the world around them. She explains, “Tying real-life events to the reading and writing in my class is the best way for students to learn the English/Language Arts standards and to be engaged with the world around them. I know that this program will not only enhance the work I already do in my classroom, but would allow me to help make Mississippi’s civil rights history a larger part of the learning experience in Mississippi. I am very committed to enhancing civil rights education in Mississippi, and making sure all students are able to move beyond the easy and oft-taught lessons and get a greater, more in-depth understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and its monumental importance to Mississippi.”
Social Studies and Psychology in Holmes County
Maryam Rashid has taught elementary, middle, and high school students for three years. In her classes, Rashid helps her students build skills to solve problems independently and become proactive in their communities to address those various issues. She states, “I facilitated group projects where students formed problem solving leadership committees. They researched historical slave/labor practices and human rights issues found in Mississippi and Cuba. Students followed up that project with activism by developing modes of communication to get the word out about current human/civil rights injustices; and further educating the public about how they can help to correct these social ills.”
Rashid sees education as one of the main methods of change. She explains, “I would like to be an agent for change in helping students to benefit from Mississippi civil rights education and thus help to correct the present racial disparities that prevail in our state. I believe, like many others, that education is the key vehicle for change. From my understanding, the poverty, slavery/sharecropping systems, and civil rights violations that persisted here were the strongest. Yet, Mississippi became one of the first states to elect an African American legislator; and we are currently the state with the most African American legislators. Therefore, it is apparent that there exists here the potential for dynamic change.”
Social Studies in Jackson County
Larry Bates has been teaching 8th grade history at WM Colmer Middle School for four years. Bates uses a variety of techniques to help his students meet their potential.
Bates has used National History Day to teach students how to write thesis statements and how to conduct research utilizing primary and secondary sources. Bates noted, “I teach students how to conduct non-biased research and respond both critically and subjectively.”
Bates differentiates in his classroom through hands on learning. This was evident in the building of an electromagnetic telegraph and steamboats by hand in order to teach the significance of the Industrial Revolution or engaging students in a mock trial simulation, which included “Dred Scott v. Sandford”. Bates believes that an understanding of history can lead to a better Mississippi. He states, “Students must know the mistakes of the past in order to build up a more productive society within our state.”
Bates hopes to gain tools at the institute to help his students become changes agents. He states, “My goal each day is to touch every students’ heart and assist in inspiring them to change the world for the better each and every day of their lives.”
Social Studies in Jackson County
Elizabeth Green teaches at Pascagoula High School in Pascagoula, MS. She has taught AP US History and US History for 16 years. In her classes, Green often gives her student’s assignments that give them an opportunity to express themselves. One way this is accomplished is through National History Day. Green has traveled to nationals with her students every year for the past 6 years. Most of the topics students choose are related to the Civil Rights Movement. Green believes that “Mississippi has a rich history that must be evaluated by students. “ Her interest in the Civil Rights Movement transfers to her students. She states, “I thoroughly enjoy teaching Civil Rights. I feel that it gives my students a great understanding of how a nation can change, and how it must continue to change.”
In her classes, Green uses a large variety of activities to keep students engaged. She makes sure that students have clear expectations. Green explains “I have found that like adults, students need a road map to know where they are headed. I always list the big questions we will undertake on the board.”
Green interest in the fellowship stems from her desire to continue improving her craft. Green states, “I believe that the only way to stay relevant as a teacher is to keep learning. I like to bring the most exciting and fresh things that are available into my classroom.”
Social Studies in Jackson County
Lainie Marsh is in her fourteenth year of teaching with the last three years being at Colmer Middle School. She creates a classroom environment where everyone “is entitled to their own opinion, and we are going to be respectful of it. My classroom is a safe zone for students to have open dialogue about civil rights.”She has used National History Day in Mississippi to promote a deeper understanding of Mississippi history. She noted that, “One project which sticks out in my mind was a National History Day performance created by one of my students about the murder of Vernon Dahmer. Not only did this student teach her peers, but she also taught me.
“I am interested in this program because this is my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I want to do my best to understand the era and connect it to how it is so different now. It is interesting to me that my parents grew up during this time, but they did not teach me or my sister in the ways they experienced all around them. My parents were part of the generation that decided to take a stand. Also, when I was at the 50th Anniversary Freedom Summer Conference at the University of Southern Mississippi in June, I found it very interesting to hear from the people who lived on the ‘other side’ during those times. I was also not expecting them to discuss some of the ‘backlash’ of integration. I left that conference with so many different thoughts. It was a great experience.”
Various Subjects in Jones County
Raymond Brookter has taught library science, African-American literature, and English at Laurel High School for eight years. Brookter uses primary sources with his students to engage them when introducing new content.
Brookter is passionate about literature. He helps students of all reading levels share in this passion by plotting out strategies for struggling readers while challenging students that are reading above grade level with more complex texts.
Brookter hopes to help students get a sense of the rich history that surrounds them. He states, “I seek to join professionals and scholars well versed in Mississippi culture, folklore, and history. As an African American male, I desire to bring the multi-faceted history of this region beyond the abysmal chapters of slavery and Jim Crow to discuss the communal nature, the civic pride, and the intellectual drive that make living in Mississippi one of the greater adventures of the 21st century.”
Social Studies in Lee County
Anthony Golding has taught at Tupelo Middle School for two years. He teaches his students the origins of the civil rights movement in Mississippi by focusing on “the early attempts of integrating Mississippi institutions of higher learning, and the sequence of events that finally led to the admission of James Meredith to Ole Miss in 1962.”
Empathy is a key part of Golding’s pedagogy. He states: “We empathize with the African American population, as they experienced racial segregation in the schools, churches and businesses of our state, but not only that, we examine the roots of this segregation.
“As an educator, I attempt to instill the mindset in my students that education is a lifelong process. As a believer in this, I do not think that there is such thing as too much knowledge. I look forward to this opportunity to learn more about the Civil and Labor Rights era in Mississippi in order to return the knowledge to my students.”
English and Social Studies in Lee-Monroe Counties
Tiffany Harris has taught for 11 years, eight of which have been at Nettleton Junior High. Harris believes in teaching history using a variety of methods including lectures, class discussions, and cooperative learning. Harris states: “I feel cooperative learning is my best teaching tool because it gives my students that hands-on experience. I have them do several group activities and projects throughout the school year.”
Harris encourages her students to see contemporary connections to history. She notes, “We discuss the fact that throughout the 19th century, 20th century, and still today African Americans and women have struggled to win equal treatment in American society. Many groups have been denied their civil rights at different times in Mississippi and U.S. history because of their race or social class.”
Harris applied for the fellowship to “Learn new strategies and ways of teaching history to my students and how I can better collaborate with other disciplines and help with the Common Core Standards. I am also excited about having the opportunity to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement and how African Americans were truly able to cope during that time.”
Social Studies in Lowndes County
Allison Barnette has taught at Caledonia Middle School for 14 of her 16 years as an educator. Barnette wants her students to think critically about the past, while having hope for the future. Having grown up in Mississippi, she wants students to embrace its rich history. She states: “I also want to make this their most relevant subject, with a real call to action. There’s been so much in our past to criticize, and we need to know about that, but we need to have ideals and goals for tomorrow. Knowing the whole story, both good and bad, straight from the sources will help us do that.”
Primary sources are used often in her classroom. For example, in her first lesson about Mississippi weather, she used records of the 1927 flood to reveal race and class inequities in dealing with the catastrophe. Barnette states, “My biggest unit for the last six years has been a ‘living history day,’ a culmination of students digging through primary and secondary sources, writing five-minute skits based on research, building sets and props, and performing the skits for hundreds of students and parents throughout the day on a field at the school.”
Social Studies in Lowndes County
Julie Heintz has been teaching for 17 years. She is presently teaching at the Mississippi School for Math and Science. She states, “The desire to become a teacher is a direct result of my aspiration to guide students in the process of discovery. The joy which comes with teaching is one without rival; no other career for me can provide the joy and satisfaction which results from being a teacher. History to me is about preserving the past and making it come alive for the current generation. Through my teaching and interaction with students, I strive to inspire a love of history.“
Social Studies, Sociology, Psychology in Marion County
Marsha McNail has taught at East Marion High School for six years and overall for 16 years. McNail gives students a chance to show what they know using different forms of expressions. Students can write a paragraph or draw a political cartoon on a topic so they can tell what they know instead of being boxed in.
Focusing on primary documents is key in McNail’s class. She states, “I make sure the students see the history as it was recorded first hand, whether through photographs or the written word. It is easy to get the students’ attention by bringing out the big names in the movement’s history and getting them to tell me what they know right off the bat. But as we move deeper into a discussion, I start showing pictures of the people more involved in Mississippi’s grass roots movement. I make sure students understand that the pictures are of ordinary people, most just a little older than themselves, who were just trying to exert their rights.”
Mathematics in Sunflower County
This is Scotty Jean-Baptiste’s 2nd year working in Sunflower County. Jean-Baptiste gives students as much time as possible to practice skills introduced in class. He states, “My goal for every class period is to talk for less than 15 cumulative minutes. This creates more opportunities for students to learn from each other through open conversations and discussions. I create mathematics lessons in a manner that allows for students to learn about the meaning behind equations and develop their own methods in order to solve problems on their own. This empowers my students and give them the critical thinking skills necessary to be leaders going forward in their lives.“
In terms of Mississippi history, Jean-Baptiste wants his students to have a solid understanding of the sacrifices that were made. He explains “Many of the Freedom Summer Project volunteers were tortured, attacked, and treated unjustly by the prison guards to scare them away from their cause. I love the fact that these terrible circumstances pushed the Freedom Summer volunteers to fight even harder for fair voter registration.
“The idea of people coming together to help empower the residents of Mississippi with Voter Registration and Freedom Schools to me is remarkable. The people that came down for the Freedom Summer Project displayed an incredible amount of bravery and tenacity that led to the lives of thousands Mississippians being changed. And the churches and community leaders coming together to help the Freedom Summer volunteers accomplish their goals was very impressive and noteworthy.“
English in Sunflower County
Philip Mohr is a dedicated ELA teacher with four years of experience at Indianola Gentry High School, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. There, surrounded by the rich and dark history of “the most southern place on earth,” he leads his students through reading and discussion that pushes them to confront big questions about civil disobedience and rebellion, civil rights, cultural memory and identity, gender, human nature, human rights, the ideals of freedom and equality, the purpose of government, and race.
He believes that the great literature of the past is deeply connected with our current events and issues. He views the Civil Rights Movement as an instance of a much larger conversation, a kind of convergence of voices from as far back as West African myths, the writings of Plato, and the Bible. When one understands the historical, literary conversation behind the movement in the 20th century, one gains a better understanding of its twenty-first century form, and can begin to add new voices to the conversation.
From this Fellowship. Mohr hopes to come away with tools and texts by which he can enrich the curricula of his school’s ELA and Social Studies departments. He is thrilled by the opportunity to offer his students new insights and perspectives concerning their home state.