James E. Triesler, who teaches American history at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Virginia has won the 2008 Tom & Betty Lawrence American History Teacher Award. This prestigious teacher award is one of many education related awards sponsored by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Mr. Triesler was sponsored by the Richmond Chapter of the Virginia Society.
The winner has a B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Masters from East Carolina University. He has taught for 19 years and is often quoted as telling students who say history is boring, "If you think history is boring, you just don't know enough about it." He says:
"I believe there is nothing more exciting in American history than to discover that one of your ancestors played a role in the founding of our nation by participating in the American Revolution!"
In 2001 he created a project called the Historical Research and Technology Class for his students where each student traces their ancestry back, often to colonial days. They are taught to gather photographs, vital records, newspaper articles, maps, military service records and other information. Then they prepare booklets on their research. One of the projects won a Save Our History Award from the History Channel in 2007. His students have also won the Bobby Chandler Student Research Award from the Virginia Historical Society in two of the past three years.
His principal says that he is creating historians. He hopes that is true and says it has been a long time since one of his students said "history is boring". The class has grown from one section to four sections and the concept has now spread to another high school in a neighboring county.
Several sentences from his application show why he is the 2008 winner.
"We are a diverse nation and if we are to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, we must look to the American Revolution and place the spirit of liberty and justice in the hearts and minds of our youth. As teachers, our voices must echo the American spirit to our students. Currently I teach students of a variety of cultural backgrounds. The knowledge they gain at the workshop will help them to have a deeper understanding of what it is to be an American."
Mr. Triesler wins a scholarship toward attending either the Freedom's Foundation Teacher Workshop, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Workshop or the University of Virginia Jefferson Symposium.