BIC teacher selected to be part of U.S. Department of State Educational program

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Nancy Spencer at Crystal Bridges

Nancy Spencer, junior high English teacher at Buffalo Island Central, is among 27 educators selected to participate in a pilot educational program.

Spencer said it is part of the Arkansas Declaration of Learning, part of the pilot program of the National Declaration of Learning.

The original American Declaration of Learning was signed in 2012 by representatives from 14 National partnering organizations.

The first group of educators met Wednesday, July 8, for a two and a half day workshop held at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

"We are fortunate to have Crystal Bridges in Arkansas," Spencer said. "It was a great place to meet other team members and our mentors."

The group was divided into eight teams of four.

"We will work with our group throughout the program," Spencer said.

Each team is made up of teachers in the fields of English, art, history and library. Each is an expert in his or her field and the teams are designed to allow the teachers to lean on each other.

The mentors and team members will be in contact throughout the year and they will meet as a group once each semester. A presentation of their lessons will be given in November of 2016 at The Butler Center.

For the 2015-2016 inaugural year, Arkansas participants will focus on using the selected art and historic objects to better unerstand the importance of civic engagement.

Among the mentors are two from the Butler Center; one from the Arkansas Department of Education; one from Crystal Bridges; Kay Bland and George West developers of on-line Encyclopedia of Arkansas; Arkansas Founding partners in the program include the U.S. Department of Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies; and the Arkansas Department of Education.

"One of the goals of the program is to develop new tools that inspire student learning," Spencer said. "This is a pilot year for the Arkansas Declaration of Learning and I feel honored to be a part of it. Plans are to continue the program and I would encourage other teachers to apply."

Teachers received 15 objects from the U.S. Department of Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Crystal Bridges Museum; and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies representing major events in Arkansas ranging from early American history to modern to be used in the classroom.

"I think Arkansas was chosen for the pilot program because we are geographically diverse," Spencer said. "We have students from rural, urban and suburban surroundings. The program is open to charter private, public and magnet schools."

Some of the lessons taught included how to read a painting and teach students how to read paintings as well as an object. They learned to utilize oral history and how to use the theme of civic engagement. They were given resources and taught research techniques; and lesson plan formats.

"We were encouraged to pull up all local history we have available whether oral history or written history," Spencer said. "We will be talking to area residents who lived through the major floods or other events."

Spencer is just beginning in the program and she is looking forward to the year long experience.

"The program gives us so much to bring back to our students," she said.

Spencer has been teaching English at BIC Junior High for four years. Before going into teaching, she worked at Buffalo Island Central School District serving as a special needs aid, bus driver, data entry for administration office, and managed the on-line maintenance program for the district.

Also selected in the pilot program is Susan Youngblood. Ms. Youngblood will be joining the Manila High School staff this fall.

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