Jeff Cunningham, social studies teacher at Huntingtown High School, is the 2017 winner of the Patricia Seitz Teacher of the Year Award from the Archaeological Society of Maryland.
The award recognizes excellence in instruction that develops and/or incorporates archaeological content, projects, and/or activities into the classroom. Cunningham was nominated by his students and the staff at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
“Mr. Cunningham makes great use of the excellent resources of JPPM. He is outstanding,” said Superintendent Daniel Curry in a press release.
Over the past eight years, Cunningham forged a relationship between his archaeology students and JPPM that led to their research of artifacts found in Baltimore in 1980. The collection of artifacts is from the mid- to late 1800s and includes broken pieces of dinnerware and glass bottles, among other household trash from the time.
The partnership with JPPM started out with the students creating audio tours, Cunningham said.
“Over a few years it morphed into actually taking collections from the museum and having students work on them and that took on a life of its own,” he said.
Cunningham said his vice principal and student president of the archaeology club approached him mid-September and informed him they had nominated him for the recognition by the archaeological society and that he was the recipient.
“I was flattered … and appreciative. Honestly, I don’t always care for a lot of attention.”
As part of the recognition, Cunningham received a plaque, a monetary prize and recognition at the society’s yearly meeting. But the most important thing, Cunningham said, is the enhanced ability to network to get similar initiatives in other schools.
The work his students have done with JPPM has taught research skills, public speaking skills and more. His students have had their research published and do a public speaking tour each year in Baltimore.
“They embrace the academic projects,” Rick Weber, Huntingtown High principal, said in the press release. “Because of his enthusiasm for the topic, his engaging teaching, and the rapport he builds with his students.”
“This is a lot of real world skills that come out of it,” he said. As a result, he added he has “seen people grow into archaeologists.”