Adrian grew up in Peoria, the daughter of a Bradley University civil engineering professor and a history buff, in a home where being smart was seen as “a cool thing.” She earned three education degrees at the UI, including a master’s in global studies in education.
She sees herself as a historian as well as a teacher, a role enhanced by her participation in the American History Teachers’ Collaborative overseen by the Urbana school district. It provides summer research fellowships for teachers to find primary-source documents to use in lessons, such as archived photos or newspaper clippings.
She was also the first non-college teacher to develop a lesson from materials at the National Archives through a curriculum project there. It compares photographs from the Dust Bowl and the Holocaust, both units in her modern U.S. history class, to understand human compassion.
Her goal is to teach students how to be historians, too. She has them read books and texts from different perspectives, to learn how to separate fact from opinion.
“I want them to formulate the questions” rather than dictate what they think, she said.
Her latest effort is a sister-school project in Africa through the Opportunity Education Foundation, which pairs schools from First World countries like the United States with schools in Third World countries.
Jefferson is paired with Valingozi Junior Secondary School in South Africa. The foundation provides Valingozi with lesson plans and equipment, and Jefferson students are asked to write to the South African students so they can learn to write in English.
Adrian said American schools are in dire need of more study about Africa, whose history is deeply intertwined with the United States.
It’s also eye-opening for students here – who sometimes complain about school – to hear how students there walk 2 or 3 miles in the dark through the African bush just to get to school.
“They see the reason for education. They’re actually risking their lives to get to school,” Adrian said.
She requires her students to put in four hours of volunteer work each semester, starting this fall with a day of activism on the 9/11 anniversary.
Adrian is the type of teacher students come back to visit years later, Principal Susan Zola said.
“She engages students at a very high level and encourages them to think critically, write critically and make real-world connections,” Zola said.<< previous 1 2 3
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