December 27, 2019 | Bulldog Blog
Shedding a New Light on Social Studies at the annual NCSS Conference

According to research, the most important factor contributing to a student’s success in school is the quality of teaching. Palm Beach Day Academy places a high value and emphasis on professional development to ensure that our teachers continue to strengthen their practice throughout their careers.

As one of our most recent professional development endeavors, three Social Studies teachers from PBDA’s Upper Campus attended the annual conference for the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) in Austin, Texas in late November 2019. The annual conference is the largest gathering of K-12 social studies classroom teachers, college and university faculty members, curriculum designers and specialists, district and state social studies supervisors, international educators, and social studies discipline leaders.

PBDA teachers at NCSS 2019

Upper Campus faculty attendees included Bryce Stewart, Dean of Students and History Teacher; Katy Thompson, Fifth Grade teacher and Co-Coordinator of the Bulldog Outreach program; and Scott Thompson, Art Department Chair and Upper Campus Art and History Teacher. The PBDA faculty attended workshops that ranged from “Fake News” and “Digital Resources to Teach the 2020 Election” to “Is the Electoral College Outdated? A Geographic Inquiry” and “Where Were You? The Ongoing Relevance of 9/11.”

A Shifted Perspective

For Mr. Stewart, what was appealing about many of these workshops sessions was the focus on making historical connections to a diverse group of people, not just the voices typically featured in textbooks. 

Because so many times, much of history is told from the lens of the same “players,” the angle of the conference’s workshops were of particular interest. Several WWII sessions included a focus on unusual primary sources as a window into the WWII years by sharing perspectives on the events from a diverse group including women of color, Japanese Americans, and lower-class women on the homefront. 

Where Were You? The Ongoing Relevance of 9/11

A workshop that stood out to both Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Thompson was the September 11, 2001-themed session which was led by two survivors of the event. “This was very personal and emotional for me because I lived in Manhattan and was teaching 8th Grade on the morning of 9/11. I felt that I was reliving the day as I was listening to each of their stories,” said Katy Thompson. “One view that both speakers shared was the importance of remembering the events of the day. As one of the Bulldog Outreach coordinators, my wheels started turning and I thought having a service event on 9/11 could be a perfect Bulldog Outreach kick-off activity for future school years. The firefighter discussed the importance of thanking veterans, active service members, and first responders. I think that as a school we do an excellent job of supporting our service members. I know that this will continue to be important for our community to do.”

The Takeaways

All three PBDA faculty members left the conference with new ideas to implement in their classrooms and an energy surrounding the topics discussed in each of their workshops. 

“Faculty at Palm Beach Day Academy are always looking for ways to broaden the scope of what we teach and how we teach it. It is always rewarding to have fresh plans and materials to engage students in the study of history in a way that is inclusive and authentic. With the approaching election, it was important to participate in forums where we discussed the importance of teaching politics, not partisanship, in social studies classes.”

Mr. Bryce Stewart, Dean of Students and History Teacher at PBDA

As with most professional development opportunities, the learnings come from not only the continued education provided but also the people one meets. For Mr. Thompson, the NCSS conference provided him with the opportunity to explore how others think and teach in schools across the country. “As a teacher, it’s easy to get into a tendency to teach in silos. Opportunities like the NCSS provided us with a chance to think outside of the box and collaborate with many other great teachers and presenters.”

Outside of the Classroom

PBDA teachers at NCSS 2019

While in Austin, the team also left time to explore the state’s capital city, where one of the highlights was a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library. “Any opportunity to see authentic documents, films and artifacts helps us to understand the contributions of individuals to the success of our nation during turbulent times,” said Mr. Stewart. “Traveling to Austin enabled our teachers to learn about this time period in a first-hand manner.” Added Mrs. Thompson: “After spending a few hours at the library, I feel like I better understand LBJ as a president. I look forward to sharing this information with my students, especially when we begin studying the U.S. Presidents in January.” 

To read more about our Upper Campus Social Studies Program, please visit our Curriculum Overview