Hands-On Teacher Experience Enhances Academics

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TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher

TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher at CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy is passionate about teaching his students.  He is innovative and creative in his teaching method providing students a variety of modalities to fully experience history.  He makes learning interesting, memorable and hands-on.  TJ finds that this type of teaching is highly effective in a therapeutic learning environment such as residential treatment where students often arrive bringing a history of school refusal or a high degree of anxiety associated with academics.  TJ is continually looking for new ideas to improve his own knowledge base to provide interesting information to his students in a way that they will effectively respond to. 

TJ was recently selected as one of 28 teachers from hundreds of applicants across the state of Utah to participate this summer in the Driven 2 Teach Program.  Driven 2 Teach explains their program as such, “The Driven 2 Teach program takes History teachers who specialize in American History or historical literature out of the classroom to the very places where history happened.  The Driven 2 Teach program gives teachers an extended, hands-on learning experience unlike any other.” In order to apply for this incredible opportunity, TJ wrote a letter explaining why he particularly should participate and what opportunities he would give his students from this experience.

TJ will specifically be involved in the Civil War to Civil Rights seminar. This seminar will provide TJ with a deeper understanding of Civil Rights in American History.  Driven 2 Teach explains that this seminar, “Provides teachers with a greater understanding of the rights of citizens to political, economic, and social freedom with equality for all with a focus on the African American struggle.”  To prepare for the trip, TJ won’t just be packing his bags and buying road trip treats.  He will need to read 6 assigned books and do homework himself completing a 6-credit college course in just 6 weeks.

The itinerary for the seminar includes some of the major locations for both the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  Starting in Charleston, South Carolina, TJ will learn about and study the beginning of the slave trade, the institution of slavery and the Civil War. TJ and the other teachers will then go to Atlanta, Georgia, where they will study the history of African Americans and the role of Martin Luther King at the Martin Luther King National Museum. Tuskegee, Alabama and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will be the next stop.  The seminar will consider these pilots as pioneers of the Civil Rights movement.  TJ will also spend time in the George Washington Carver Museum. One aspect of the trip that is most exciting to TJ is the opportunity to travel to Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, Alabama to study at the Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum.  TJ will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and be given the opportunity to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with a woman who marched across the bridge with Martin Luther King Jr.

TJ explains, “I fully intend to use this opportunity to improve and strengthen our amazing Social Studies programs at both schools. I will be able to bring this experience to our classrooms and really engage our students in the curriculum of Civil Rights.”   During the seminar and as well as upon his return, TJ will be developing nationally archived lesson plans that will benefit students at both Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.

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