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FHS teacher studies hands-on

Angela Breeding, a Farragut High School history teacher, attended the 2008 Presidential Academy for American History and Civics July 13-31.

The academy is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and coordinated by the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University.

Fifty-two teachers — one from each state, the District of Columbia and a U.S. territory — were selected to participate in the Presidential Academy.

“We did a three-week master’s level study of all the founding documents … the constitution and other documents,” Breeding said.

“We started with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, then we went on the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and then you end up studying some of the speeches of the 21st century presidents.”

Sam Renfroe, a representative of Ashland University, said, “The professors conducting the Presidential Academy are among the finest scholars of American history and government. The faculty includes two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and many recipients of teaching awards at their respective colleges and universities.

Breeding said the opportunity was “One of the best experiences of my life.

“We started out a week in Philadelphia,[Pa.], then we spent a week in Gettysburg, [Va.], where we studied the battlefields and the Civil War and you end up in Washington D.C.

“We got to have private tours of the Senate. I met Lamar Alexander; he actually was one of the senators who proposed this program,” she added.

Breeding said the experience of discussing events in the environment in which they happened was incomparable.

“When we were in Gettysburg we were on the Gettysburg Battlefield with Dr. [Gary] Gallagher from [the University of Virginia] and he is teaching us the Civil War as we are on the battlefield.

“We would go into the Senate and go on the Senate floor, and they would say this is where [Sen.] Ted Kennedy sits. Then they would take us in a room and we would meet with the Senate historian and they are explaining the process of how the Senate works, while you are sitting in the Senate,” she said.

Breeding is anxious to bring what she learned at the academy into her classroom.

“We are starting a history academy this year at Farragut, it is called the Renaissance Academy, and I am teaching a research class. What I want to impart on my kids is that when you study history you don’t just read a textbook; you go to the source … you have to go to the source; you have to read the documents,” she said.

“It is going to be helpful in that sense for me, having had to go through that myself … having to analyze documents and that sort of thing, when I teach the research class.”

The opportunity was a true learning experience, studying and all, and included a contract that stated if selected applicants must agree to the heavy workload.

“You have to sign the contract because you have to read like 3,000 pages of various documents before you ever go, and there are some pretty heavy seminars that you sit in, usually two or three a day.

“If you wanted to take part in the lectures, you had to cite your source. If you were answering a question like ‘What was Abraham Lincoln’s real take on slavery?’ You had to say ‘Well, based on this letter, Lincoln felt this way …’ It was just a really good thing that I am hoping … not only did my content grow, but the style in which it was conducted, I would like to do that more with my kids. Like get them really involved and looking at real sources and not just reading a textbook or watching a video to get their history,” Breeding said.

Breeding was one of 52 participants chosen from a pool of more than 575 applicants.T


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