Frances Rivera, an assistant principal at Ernie Pyle School 90, will use her upcoming educational trips to Italy and the White House to help her students better understand those places.
The former history and social studies teacher will visit Italy in early July as a recipient of a Language Immersion Fellowship from the European Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh. That trip will be followed by a week at the White House History Teacher Institute.
Describing the visits to Italy and the White House as “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Rivera plans to collect photos, memorabilia, and other educational tools on the trips that she plans to share with teachers during the upcoming school year.
“Social studies and history are my jam,” Rivera said. “Social studies and history are so much fun because you get to learn about all sorts of people, their history, their food. At the end of the day, you find they have the same issues we do.
“I plan to bring back artifacts to our school to share with students,” she said. “Many have never been to Italy or the White House. I want to bring back that background knowledge so they can learn about different cultures.”
When she visits Italy, Rivera will immerse herself in learning the language, which she says is similar to her native Spanish. She grew up in Puerto Rico before her family moved to the United States.
While in Washington D.C., Rivera will participate in an intensive educational experience with about 30 teachers from across the country. The institute will feature exclusive visits to historic sites, introductions to new educational resources and technology, and opportunities to learn about White House history from historians and former White House staff.
Each day, teachers will focus on topics that include the construction and expansion of the White House, the evolving role of the First Lady, the art of diplomacy in the executive branch, and the role of the White House as a living museum for the American people. Educators will also sample and provide feedback on classroom tools created by the White House Historical Association, including the recently developed Alexa Skill and the White House Experience mobile app.
“There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes at the White House than people realize,” said Rivera, who noted she originally was scheduled to attend the institute in 2020 but the program was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions. “I’ve always been interested in the White House and its history. I want to know more about each room and better understand the role of the staff.”
The White House History Teacher Institute will take place at the White House Historical Association’s David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History, located just a block from the White House.