The next time you think writing a term paper is tough, imagine competing for a grant worth nearly $1 million against professionals in all 50 states that takes nearly three years to finish writing the final draft. Then instead of having one teacher grade your paper, you need to submit it to a national board for approval.
That’s precisely what History Professor Mike Austin and Leavenworth secretary Mary Giordano did. Austin, grant project director and Giordano, assistant grant director, began the process of working on a federal grant nearly three years ago.
In addition to planning and writing the grant, the process involves working closely with local educational agencies, schools, principals and teachers. The Teaching American History grant is part of the innovative teaching section of the U.S. Department of Education
The result of their work is a $957,000 grant that will serve the entire western side of Vermont from Bennington County to Grand Isle and serves teachers in public and private schools from K-12.
This marks the second grant that Austin and Giordano have managed to land despite national competition.
“It’s really something that we got it not once, but twice,” said Austin, his voice elevating. “The first was for $825,000.”
The grant will provide $97,327 over the course of three years to the Castleton State College Library for up-to-date books, DVDs, databases, and research for materials in American history, helping Castleton become an educational leader in the state.
Both grants have helped Castleton strengthen their collection of American history books and databases, which help to serve students at Castleton and teachers in Vermont.
“One thing there has been a real need for are teachers being able to share ideas and really network, and these funds will give them that opportunity,” Giordano said.
“The excitement of history is to tell it like an unfolding story that continues to shape us. We have all loved stories since we were kids. Teaching it simply with dates deadens it. That is not teaching, that is fact dispensing,” Austin said.
Both Austin and Giordano agreed that the importance of these funds rests with the fact that history in schools is becoming more obsolete.
“There are institutional tests for reading, writing, and math — saying that those are the “holy trinity” and important — but by implication everything else is not. With the money from this grant, we hope to bring history back as something not only valuable and important but also make it very exciting because it is very much our story and helps to explain us,” Austin said.
The Web site, www.tahvt.org, is useful for teachers and students and provides a means for a more effective network of teachers interested in history, he added.