Originally from Beckley, West Virginia and a 20 year resident of Petersburg, VA, Cheryle Hodges is currently a fourth grade teacher at Harrison Road Elementary in Fredericksburg, VA. Cheryle graduated from Petersburg High School in 1976 after which she attended Chowan University and Longwood University to attain her teaching degree. Cheryle began teaching in Halifax County, Virginia in 1980 and moved to Spotsylvania County in 1984. She has been teaching in Spotsylvania County ever since.
Civil War Trust: What led to your current career as an elementary school teacher?
Cheryle Hodges: I was a middle school for sixteen years, but started in fourth and now I’m in fourth again. When I was a kid my history teacher was totally awesome. I grew up in Petersburg and because I grew up by the battlefield we were always over there. I taught mainly history in middle school. Where I teach I started our history league and we met once a month after school and I would do something that the Virginia Standards of Learning did not allow us time to do in school. We would bring in speakers, visit sites, and do special projects. It was a very successful venture; both students and teachers really liked it. I only did it for fourth grade, but next year I’m doing it for 5th grade as well. The test scores went up and I not only got kids involved but their families as well.
How do you teach the Civil War in elementary school?
CH: In class you really don’t have a lot of time to go above and beyond. For special projects we break them up and do research in history and writing or reading in reading class. I’m multi-discipline as much as I can. I use hands on items, such as trunks I order form the National Park Service. I also buy a lot of artifacts to use in the classroom.
How do you feel the state standards shape your teaching of the Civil War?
CH: 4th grade is a real overview in VA, they look at the major characters and battles as well as Richmond as the capital. 5th grade is a little more spread-out with more out-of-state battles. 4th grade is just a little hint of what’s going on. There’s not a lot of time because of all the information the Virginia Standards of Learning have on them in 4th. 5th grade has a little more time because they stop after 1865 and then 6th grade starts up at reconstruction.
How do you use your local resources for teaching the Civil War or American history?
CH: I use the National Park Service educator and her materials as well as re-enactors. But you have to be careful with the re-enactors and the information they’re providing. We are going to the local battlefields for our fieldtrip this year. There are a lot of programs in the county for teachers. I have even made arrangements with a local civil war museum to come in with objects.
What advice do you have for other teachers?
CH: Enjoy it yourself, go out and explore the stuff that is available around you. One of the things I like to do is get a group of teachers together and go to the local places. When you’re excited they’re excited.