Never Stop Learning – Bryan Middle Teacher Spent Summer Developing Skills for Classroom

Posted on 08/25/2017
Bryan teacher Andrea Jandt in the George Washington Library Vault at Mt. Vernon


It’s a common misconception that teachers only work nine months out of the year. The reality is that effective teachers never stop learning. Francis Howell School District teachers live by this motto, always finding new ways to reach all learners and their individual learning styles, and keeping up with the newest, most efficient teaching methods. Andrea Jandt at Bryan Middle School exemplifies the dedication FHSD teachers put into their craft, attending three different national professional development conferences over the summer.

Every teacher should be an expert in his or her subject, but Jandt will be the first to tell us that history always has another layer to study, debate, and share. “Even if I know the history,” Jandt said, “methodology changes over time as well, and I want to keep up. I am truly of the opinion that we are all lifelong learners, or should be. It’s important to set an example for my students that learning never stops, and we can always improve ourselves even in something we're already ‘good at.’”

The three summer programs in which Jandt participated were the George Washington Teacher Institute, National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks Workshop: Crossroads of Conflict, and C-SPAN’s Summer Educator’s Conference. The subject matter was important, but so was her work with fellow teachers. “A huge part of all three national programs was being able to meet and collaborate with educators from around the country,” Jandt said. “I loved talking to people from many other states about what works in their classrooms, and what I might be able to use in my room.”

Included in the NEH and C-SPAN activities were the creation of lessons that incorporated the new knowledge and skills acquired from their programs, ensuring the experience will benefit students. The GWTI also requires that participants provide professional development to others in their respective district or state. “I’ve applied to present at the Missouri Council for the Social Studies State Conference,” Jandt said. She also presented there last year after GWTI. “All three institutes helped me learn specific knowledge that relates to our eighth grade history curriculum, or a new skill that I can use to enhance my lessons. I look forward to a new look at the way I teach slavery in early America, and the way I discuss ‘Bleeding Kansas’ in the Civil War causes unit.”

“Bleeding Kansas” refers to the lesser-known conflict between Kansas and Missouri before and during the American Civil War, which was examined in-depth at the NEH program. Jandt learned through primary sources how the disagreement over slavery led to violence between the states. “Learning about an order (General Order No. 11 of 1863) that forced many Missourians out of their homes along the Kansas border to avoid conflict was a ‘wow’ moment for me. And learning about how those deserted areas were burned to the ground in a form of total war, similar to Sherman's burning of Atlanta, made me wonder about what other important Missouri history I was unfamiliar with.”

It was Jandt’s second time visiting the GWTI, held at Mount Vernon in Virginia. Teachers had the opportunity to immerse themselves into the world of our first president, and conduct research at the Presidential Library about his life as the leader of the Continental Army. This year, Jandt focused more on the business side of Washington. “The biggest takeaway was truly how reliant our early leaders were on slave labor,” Jandt said, “especially on those large estates in the south. Intellectually, you know it; but experiencing all the work that happened at Mount Vernon really puts a human face on the hundreds of enslaved people making Washington wealthy. Weaving fishing nets, winnowing wheat, and picking worms off tobacco leaves at the pioneer farm, watching workers make thread and weave cloth in the spinning house, and seeing the gristmill and distillery in action put into perspective the daily sacrifices of the enslaved people in our nation's history.”

Jandt at C-SPAN HeadquartersThe C-SPAN conference showed teachers how to utilize C-SPAN Classroom's many free primary resources to improve student learning. “The biggest takeaway there is just that these resources exist for teachers to utilize free. The C-SPAN Classroom staff are all former teachers, so they know what premade content we might want to use in the classroom and what tools we need from them to create our own content!”

These are very competitive programs offered to teachers from around the country, and Jandt’s dedication serves as an example to her students. Although she was accepted by three, she was not accepted to others. “I shared my application progress and my victories and disappointments with my students last year,” Jandt said. “Teaching our students that we can try our hardest and still not get what we want, but pick up and try again next time is so important. So, I'll try again for those other programs to learn even more next year!” Because of FHSD teachers like Andrea Jandt, the learning never stops.

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