The Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas, an international educational non-profit, has awarded its prestigious Fellowship to fifth grade PBL teacher, Mary Huffman, of Carolina Park Elementary in Mount Pleasant. Mary will arrive in Fort Scott on June 16 for a week of collaboration with LMC staff.

The LMC Fellowship is awarded on the basis of merit to educators who have distinguished themselves in teaching respect and understanding through project-based learning or who have the potential for this distinction. The Center selects exemplary teachers from across America and Europe, drawn from a variety of disciplines, to collaborate on projects that discover, develop, and communicate the stories of Unsung Heroes in history.

Huffman is the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History National History Teacher of the Year. A few of her additional awards include the 2017 South Carolina Council for the Social Studies Best Practices in Social Studies Award, the 2016 Western Illinois University Alumni Achievement Award, and the 2016 Western Illinois University College of Education and Human Services Distinguished Alumni Award. Key components to Mary’s teaching are curriculum integration, hands-on simulations, differentiated instruction, community service, and authentic learning opportunities. Community service activities for her fifth graders include Adopt-A-Campus, the Charleston Yom HaShoah Remembrance Program, and monthly Treats 4 Troops baking for active troops. Students have had authentic learning experiences through sleeping and studying on a WWII aircraft carrier, participating in a five-day WWII draft simulation, collaborating during a three-week Holocaust simulation unit with two local Holocaust survivors, and dressing up while practicing non-violent protesting methods from the 1960s (sit-ins, debates, speeches, protests, and propaganda writing).

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Mary Huffman (far left, back) pictured with her students was named a 2019 Lowell Milken Center Fellow.

Mary shares her passion for teaching through professional development as a Master Teacher Fellow for the Gilder Lehrman Institute. She gives WWI presentations at seminars around the U.S., presents at conferences called “The Making of America: From the Founding Era Through the Civil War,” and has a published piece entitled, “Teaching Literacy Through History Lessons.” Mary’s involvement with the Korean War Digital History Program has helped teachers become more knowledgeable about Korean War history through her sharing of her collaborative work with teachers in South Korea and Athens, Greece. In all of her presentations, she reminds participants that history is a living, breathing, entity that should always be taught through primary/secondary sources, props, creativity, plays, reenactments, and community involvement.

“Mary’s success with project based learning is an outstanding example of how student motivation increases with authentic experiences. We look forward to learning from and sharing with Mary as a member of our team of Fellows," said LMC executive director, Norm Conard. 

While in Fort Scott, LMC Fellows gain knowledge, educational resources and ongoing support to enhance their classrooms and help students cultivate a passion for learning by creating projects that initiate positive change. Fellows emerge prepared to develop Unsung Heroes projects with their students as they apply and evaluate the stories of role models who have changed the world throughout history.