(Washington, D.C.) - Not even the most passionate teacher - the kind who can bring the past alive and inspire a life-long love of history in a generation's worth of students - can go it alone. To provide support for these mentors, the Civil War Trust, the nation's largest battlefield preservation organization, has created the Teachers Regiment, a community of classroom educators, museum, professionals, librarians, tour guides and other public historians eager to raise the level of history instruction nation-wide.
"At the Civil War Trust, we believe passionately in the power of each individual teacher to shape the minds of the students under his charge," said Trust president James Lighthizer. "The Teacher Regiment is the latest innovative, accessible tool that we provide to enhance the efforts of public educators - whether in a classroom, museum or other setting."
Through an active Facebook community, members of the regiment can provide each other with real-time support, sharing resources and offering practical suggestions. In person events, large and small, not only promote esprit de corps, but also provide opportunities for collaborative projects that will benefit an even broader universe of educators once made publically available through the Trust.
The Teachers Regiment is free to join. Educators will be accepted into the ranks as a "private," but further participation in Teachers Regiment activities - such as contributing to events, writing articles, sharing lesson plans and peer-reviewing new educational resources - leads to promotion. Higher ranks come with special perks: priority registrations, special tours, sponsored field trips and more.
The group takes its name from the sobriequit of the 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers, nicknamed the "Schoolteachers Regiment" due to an unusual density of educators in its ranks - reportedly nearly 100 men had classroom instruction experience. The 151st distinguished itself during the Battle of Gettysburg, holding a critical position on the Union left at McPherson's Ridge on July 1, 1863, before being stationed on Cemetery Hill and helping repulse further Confederate attacks on July 3. In these two actions, the regiment suffered nearly 75 percent casualties, among the highest rates of any Federal unit during the campaign. Due to its losses, the 151st Pennsylvania was mustered out of service on July 27, 1863.
The new program is being implemented by Trust teacher-in-residence James Percoco, who retired from Virginia's West Springfield High School with 32 years of classroom experience in 2012. His many honors include: Civil War Trust Preservationist Teacher of the Year (2012), National Teachers Hall of Fame (2011), Board of Trustees for the National Council for History Education (1998-2004), USA TODAY All-USA Teacher Team (1998) and Walt Disney Company American Teacher Awards Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year (1993). He is the author of three books, including A Passion for the Past: Creative Teaching of US History (Heinemann, 1998), which received the 2000 James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association and is on the syllabus for many university-level social studies methods courses.
"For 32 years, I prided my classroom instruction in history in deliberately crafting a dynamic and hands-on classroom environment," said Percoco. "In a curriculum that is a mile long and a quarter inch deep, it is difficult to teach the Civil War in a meaningful way. An environment like the Teacher Regiment allows for the dynamic sharing of ideas necessary to succeed in these challenging conditions."
The Civil War Trust's education goals span all aspects of the war and employ numerous methods of delivery appropriate to a variety of age groups and skill levels. The Trust employs a broad approach to reach literally millions of people in classrooms, on battlefields, through its website and in printed media. The popular Teacher Institute series offers continuing education credits for attendance at intensive weekend-long workshops. Other resources include: the Civil War Traveling Trunk program, which provides reproduction Civil War artifacts, books, music and other various materials for teachers to utilize during their Civil War instruction; elementary, middle, and high school curriculum guides, as well as individual lesson plans; contests designed for students and teachers; and Civil War Kid's 150: Fifty Fun Things to Do, See, Make, and Find for the 150th Anniversary, a book designed to help young people experience history in tangibly, interactive ways. Learn more about these and other initiatives at www.civilwar.org/education.
Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, it has preserved more than 38,500 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.