Teacher at Bend’s Seven Peaks School nominated for National History Day Teacher of the Year
PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Historical Society has nominated Megan Kruer, a 7th/8th grade language and literature teacher at Seven Peaks School in Bend, for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award for her work with students on Oregon History Day, an affiliate of the National History Day® program.
Each of the 58 NHD affiliates may nominate one middle school teacher for the Patricia Behring Award annually. Nominees for the $10,000 award demonstrate a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through the innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills, and participation in the NHD contests. Each nominee receives $500 as a result of their nomination.
The Behring Award is sponsored this year by Patricia Behring’s family, in recognition of the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of students. The national winner will be selected by a committee of experienced teachers and historians and announced at the National History Day contest awards ceremony in June.
“Teachers are among the greatest resources children have to develop the skills necessary to become critical thinkers,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Each nominee for the Behring Award shows a dedication to teaching that goes beyond the classroom.”
Oregon History Day — facilitated by the Oregon Historical Society — is a student-directed, project-based, interdisciplinary learning program. Open to all middle and high school students, this culturally responsive program invites students to interpret a historical event that connects to the annual theme by creating a website, paper, performance, exhibit, or documentary.
Over half a million students from every state in the nation participate in the National History Day program at the local, state, or national contest levels.
“Because (Seven Peaks is) an IB school, students are quite skilled at pursuing inquiry independently," Kruer said. " However, for Oregon History Day, the challenge is to help them take their inquiry to the next level. This is what I think the NHD theme helps students achieve.
"I spend significant time with students as a group and individually unpacking the nuances of the theme and investigating angles they might take on topics in light of the theme. Students have almost complete freedom when selecting their topics; this certainly helps them take ownership of their research,” she added.
Kruer competed in National History Day as a middle school student in Ohio, when she interviewed her grandmother and great-grandmother for her projects on women’s roles in World War II and the polio vaccine.
As a teacher today, Kruer uses this adaptable program to implement Oregon’s state standards and student learning goals. Working with her partner teacher, Patrick O’Brien, Kruer continuously improves her lesson plans from previous years to better support her students as they move through the program.
“I actually redesigned my entire first unit to better prepare students to use primary sources,” Kruer continued. “The summative project for that unit is called ‘Documenting Your Life,’ and students are asked to mine their personal archives to find primary sources from their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. They then compile these ‘artifacts’ or primary sources into a project (using the same format options as NHD).
"This project helps students appreciate how a story can emerge through a deep engagement with an archive (personal in this case) while developing the skills they need to compete in the Oregon History Day contest!”
Students share their research in two ways at Seven Peaks School. First, the young historians present their projects to the entire Pre-K to 8th grade student body during a special event during school hours. Later, Kruer and the Seven Peaks staff host a community “Celebration of History” night, where students share their projects with local judges. This gives students a chance to present their work and answer questions about their research process and refine their projects before competing at the Oregon History Day contest.
The annual theme for the 2023 National History Day contest is Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas. The 2023 Oregon History Day contest will take place on Saturday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Willamette University in Salem. The National History Day contest is scheduled to take place in mid-June at the University of Maryland, College Park.
To learn more about how to get involved with Oregon History Day, contact OHD coordinator Katie Pearson at Katie.Pearson@ohs.org.
About the Oregon Historical Society
For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of objects, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms, educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.