Success in Texas

One of the  greatest opportunities Teaching with Primary Sources gives

St. Edwards University – 2010:

The original intent for this grant was to train a group of teachers who could implement TPS techniques in their classrooms, and disseminate what they had learned to their communities.

St. Edwards is remarkable in that they never truly stopped using their grant funding. The grant lasted for two years, and the group spent the entirety of their funding – an unusual practice with grant programs. “This was one of our longest-running grants. They just kept finding ways to spend the money,” according to Carol Chazdon. For example, a St. Edwards professor spoke at multiple professional events, spreading the word about TPS. St. Edwards even held special sessions on how to use primary sources, which were hosted in their library.

The group then developed and mass-produced a bookmark containing a QR code, which led to web accessible primary sources related to TPS.

Using their incredible networking skills and smart spending, the St. Edwards grant program instructed over 1,000 teachers – all with only $15,000!

Judy Leavell, an important contact during the beginning of the St. Edwards grant, is still active and assists TPS by identifying persons who will succeed in TPS workshops, and helping to make the connections that allow them to learn about primary sources with us. “She really got the whole big picture of TPS,” mused Carol.

The next Texas grant came from another organization in the Austin area:  Northside Independent School District. This was the first school district in Texas to work directly with TPS. They proved to be just as ambitious as their St. Edwards compatriots. Their first request? A three day workshop. This was unusual, as most TPS workshops last only two days. However, the NISD was set on using their third day of work to develop annotated resource sets – a project begun by Teaching with Primary Sources- Western Region.

After the first workshop, which was led by TPS staff, NISD conducted another workshop on their own, and trained teachers independently. One of those educators attended the Western History Association event (LINK) in October of 2012. She told everyone in attendance all about the workshop and how effective it had been. Carol, who was at the conference, tells us, “It was lovely to hear right from the source – she sang our praises!”

Northside Independent School District is currently in the process of creating a second grant with a more technology-centered focus, after the success of their first round with TPS.

University of Texas at Austin heard about TPS from colleagues at their rival school – St. Edwards University, also located in Austin. Luckily, the rivalry is friendly, and their communication led to a grant for UT at Austin’s group, Hemispheres. According to the website:

“Hemispheres, the international outreach consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, utilizes University resources to promote and assist with world studies for K-12 and postsecondary schools, businesses, community groups, and the general public.”

The pairing of Hemispheres with TPS was both unique and mutually beneficial. Since the University is large and has great reach, their public support of TPS programs and methods has been very helpful. And because the work of Hemispheres is concentrated on world history rather than strictly on United States history, the TPS team was able to make use of Library of Congress sponsored resources like the World Digital Library. Carol remembers working with the group fondly. “This was the first time that we’ve had a grant that wasn’t just focused on the U.S. They specifically sought us out, and we led them to the World Digital Library – and that was the first time that was really used in a training.”

Much like the team at St. Edwards, the UT at Austin team was extremely productive with their grant funding. “Through their program, they go throughout the state and do these presentations. They had extra money, so they went out and developed extra resources and did additional training,” said Keith Patterson, TPS Western Region Project Coordinator. They were only funded to conduct four workshops, but were able to expand upon their original plans by facilitating 10 different training sessions.

Hemispheres make their resources freely available on their website. So far, the team has reached over 3,800 educators with their programs, who collectively reach over 300,000 students. This was all accomplished with a mere $10,000, which was utilized over the course of 15 months. “If they had signed up for a grant now, I think they would have asked for $20,000. But they did it all with half of that,” Carol mused.

In September of 2011, TPS intern Todd Wolfe wrote an extensive article on the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza event – what Carol says was, “One of the coolest grants we’ve ever had.” The five day institute incorporated both the specific events of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and the larger themes of obsession and fascination. One of the TPS sponsored events was a bus tour, which according to Keith, was a valuable way to demonstrate the power of place as a primary source. He said, “It ended up being very powerful, and tying everything together for everyone.” Read more about the Sixth Floor Museum event here.

Following the Sixth Floor Museum event, TPS received a large influx of grant requests. At least two of these pending grants came about as a direct result of the event. One in particular, from the Texas Historical Society, has the potential to bring about even more collaboration among Texas institutions. Their goal is to team up with other grant-seeking groups to hold a large event, rather than a small training session.

As we examine our progress in Texas, we have found it useful to take a moment and reflect on what brought us here. “I think it starts with excitement. We will have a workshop – and they’re very interactive, very engaging – and teachers will leave feeling that there is something they can do the very next day in their classrooms. But then there seems to be a second surge of motivation after they use  it for a while, especially for those who really stick with it. Then they get excited and start telling other people. That leads to another grant somewhere else,” said  Chazdon.

Simply put, Texas educators are excited about primary sources. The numbers don’t lie: $45,000,  and four grants later, TPS is still receiving enthusiastic feedback and further grant requests. That, in addition to the staggering reach of these grants, just go to show how powerful primary sources can be.