- The Enterprise
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La Plata High School teacher Michele Bingham won the Patricia Behring High School History Day Teacher of the Year award for 2012.
The award is given to outstanding History Day educators.
Bingham learned that she won when her name was announced as the award recipient at the history fair state championship last year.
“It’s almost overwhelming the first time you go because there’s just so much to see,” said Bingham, who attended the state championship for the first time last year. Although she has been involved with history fair for 14 years, Bingham has always been in the classroom in previous years.
History fair is the equivalent of an annual science fair for history students across the country. Students, teachers and projects from across Maryland compete at the state championships in Baltimore.
“They’re all awarded and judged again based upon the History Fair criteria,” Bingham said.
A history teacher from each Maryland county is nominated for the award.
Bingham said the award, which includes two plaques, is the first she has received as a teacher. The award was accompanied by a gift bag of history books, including books about the history fair and Charles County’s history.
This summer, Bingham will be trained to teach Advanced Placement U.S. history classes. She is currently La Plata High School’s coordinator for history fair and a co-coordinator for Charles County.
As a History Day Fair county co-coordinator, Bingham was part of a team that designed a packet to help students and teachers through the History Day process. According to Bingham, the packet, which is an equivalent of the curriculum in Charles County, has been requested by other Maryland counties.
“It’s a very big deal because History Fair is across the state,” La Plata High School Principal Evelyn Arnold said. “So there is a history fair nominee from across the state, [one from each county] in Maryland. So for Michele to win is very prestigious.”
La Plata is Bingham’s first assignment as a high school history teacher. She previously taught U.S. history to eighth-graders for 10 years. She has been a teacher at La Plata for six years.
Bingham originally attended school to be a dental assistant and worked for two years. During that time, she thought about how she would return to school so she could become a teacher. The opportunity presented itself when her mother got a job at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where Bingham grew up.
“That was a blessing,” Bingham, who lives in La Plata, said.
At Seton Hill, Bingham majored in elementary school education, then returned to school to obtain further teacher certification. She is now certified to teach K-12.
“I’ve always loved history,” Bingham said. She shared the interest with her father and grandfather.
Bingham explained that she teaches beyond history textbooks in her classes by sharing with students “the good gossip” and the stories behind the usual facts, dates and names.
“[La Plata High School has] a reputation for excellence, and kids learn excellence from seeing it modeled,” said Arnold, who has been principal for five years. “And certainly Michele is an excellent teacher and a good role model, so it’s very prestigious for us too.”
Arnold said that when she became aware of Bingham’s nomination for the award, she felt confident Bingham would win.
“I’m just glad to see Michele recognized,” Arnold said. “She puts in a lot of long hours above and beyond the school day to do these types of things.”
Arnold added that Bingham is always looking for a challenge, which is why she will begin teaching AP courses.
“She is a very hands-on, very engaging teacher. I think the kids will benefit from [Bingham teaching AP courses],” Arnold said.
For Bingham, going above and beyond her duty as a teacher comes easily because of the support system she has at La Plata High School.
“I wouldn’t know to do these things or be comfortable to do these things if Mrs. Arnold wasn’t there to give us the support we need also,” Bingham said.
“We’re very grateful for all [Bingham] has done,” said Maryland Humanities Council Program Officer Judy Dobbs, who added that 17 of Maryland’s 24 counties participate in Maryland History Day. Charles County has the highest participation rate.
Patricia Behring is the wife of philanthropist Kenneth Behring, who has donated funds to National History Day and the National Museum of American History. Dobbs said that Patricia Behring wanted to support a special fund for History Day teachers, and an award in her name was the result. Every year, a high school and a middle school history teacher from each state are awarded the Patricia Behring History Day Teacher of the Year award.
Maryland History Day is open to public, private, parochial and home-schooled students in grades 6 through 12. This year’s theme is “Turning Points in History.”
The 2013 Maryland History Day state competition will be held April 27 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with more than 600 students and 150 judges from throughout the state.
The national competition, which will be held June 9-13, takes place at the University of Maryland with more than 3,500 students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam, American Samoa, China, Korea and South Asia.