A teacher at Alma Primary School has been named a fellow at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
Donella Smither will travel to Mount Vernon in Virginia as a Life Guard teacher fellow beginning in the fall and through the summer of 2018.
Mount Vernon is the historically maintained plantation estate of George Washington, the first U.S. president, with tours of the estate and education programs for teachers and students.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to just be on the plantation,” Smither said. “To have access to the primary sources, the artifacts, all of that kind of thing, is pretty amazing.”
As part of her fellowship, Smither will be comparing the lives of enslaved people who lived on the Mount Vernon plantation with the free people who lived there, she said.
She will then write lesson plans based on that research, which will be posted on the Mount Vernon website, she said.
Alma Primary School Principal Shawn Bullard called Smither “a great teacher; she’s very enthusiastic.”
“History and social studies are a passion of hers,” Bullard said. “For her to be able to take part in that (fellowship) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Smither and fellow Alma School District teachers Rebecca Tate and Vicki Key attended the George Washington Teacher Institute residential program last summer.
Bullard said the professional development opportunity “re-energized” Smither.
“She’s very passionate about what she learned, and she was able to tie it in with various aspects of her teaching,” Bullard said.
Part of the program was an immersion in the culture and history of Mount Vernon, which made Smither more aware of the importance of knowing and providing education on history and how it impacts society today, she said.
Looking on past choices can help leaders make better choices in the future, Smither said.
“I didn’t realize that until I was immersed in the history of the founding of our country,” Smither said. “I didn’t realize what visionaries our founding fathers were. They looked ahead to see what affect their decisions would have 100 years in the future.”
Smither wants her students to ‘be those visionaries of today,” she said.
“I want them to understand how their decisions today will impact their future,” Smither said.
One of the biggest impacts Smither’s visit to Mount Vernon made on her was the treatment of educators.
“Everyone at Mount Vernon treats educators with the utmost respect,” Smither said. “Sometimes educators don’t get the respect they deserve.”
That respect helped rejuvenate Smither and the other participating educators and reminded them of the difference they can make through education, she said.
Smither is one of six educators who will take part in a residential fellowship at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.
Others chosen Life Guard Teacher Fellows are Bonnie Belshe of California, Micheal Larson of Wisconsin, Nathan McAlister of Kansas and Matt Shomaker of Missouri. Teresa Osborne of Oregon was the chosen Reese Teacher Fellow.
The Life Guard Teacher Fellows Program is made possible by support of The Life Guard Society, a group of donors to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association who champion education-based causes and initiatives. The Reese Teacher Fellowship is made possible by the William Reese Company.
Both fellowship programs are aided by The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which opened Sept. 27, 2013.
Located just outside the main entrance to Washington’s Virginia estate, the library safeguards original Washington documents and serves as a center for scholarly research and leadership training.
The program is available to classroom teachers for kindergarten through twelfth grade, curriculum specialists, media specialists and others with expertise in creating classroom materials. The next round of proposals for consideration are due Feb. 28, 2018.