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IPS educator nominated for national teaching award

Matt McMichael, an educator for Indianapolis Public Schools, is one of two teachers from Indiana nominated for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award.

McMichael, a teacher at Center for Inquiry School 84, has been nominated in the junior division of the National History Day National Contest. The award recognizes the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of students. 

Each nominee for the $10,000 award is a teacher who demonstrates 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 National History Day Contest.

All nominees will receive $500 as a result of their nominations. 

“National History Day is a vital component in my teaching,” McMichael said. “Students love the freedom they have to choose their project topics, ranging from sports history, architecture, civil rights, fashion history, medical history, gender history, and all sorts of things in between. Also, students get to choose the type of project they want to do: website, documentary, exhibit, paper, or performance. Having choice and variety in these projects allows students to branch out of the standard curriculum and personalize their learning while honing their historical research skills they can apply to multiple areas.

“Teaching history is the reason I got into education,” he said. “History is ‘your story’ and with National History Day students get the opportunity to explore the history they enjoy. This will aid them in finding more stories to add to their own lives.”

Kathleen Miller, principal of the Center for Inquiry School 84, said McMichael is passionate about the content he teaches, and he strives to be creative in how he engages students in the learning. 

“Matt brought National History Day to our school when he joined our team a couple of years ago and each year our students look forward to the competition,” she said. “He supports and encourages students throughout the process.

“Matt believes in student choice and agency. He strives to make learning history interesting and relevant to students. He works hard to make his classroom a safe place for students to voice their opinions and share their beliefs.  His classroom invites students to speak freely and engage in meaningful dialogue.” 

The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.    Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.