The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik from Rocky River High School in Ohio has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year.
Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony in New York City on Nov. 8, where Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.
“When it comes to classroom instruction and content delivery, Sara Ziemnik is a master at her craft,” says Robert Winton, principal at Rocky River High School. “Students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing, and other creative ways to relay historical events to high-school kids. An item that isn’t normally measured by national or state-mandated evaluation models is the ability to develop and maintain relationships with students. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations, all while keeping a smile on her students’ faces.”
Ziemnik has taught American history and world history for 17 years at Rocky River High School, where she encourages her students to learn from one another, centering her classroom around debate, discussion, and inquisitive learning. “My students have the responsibility as American citizens to form their own opinions,” Ziemnik says. “Nothing makes me prouder or happier than a classroom full of voices —sometimes arguing, sometimes questioning, and always developing a unique identity and sense of self as Americans.”
In addition, Ziemnik deploys digital tools and works with the local community to bring the past alive for her students, including creating content for Cleveland State University’s “Cleveland Historical” app, where students can explore Cleveland history via interactive tours. In a project aligned with the app, her students create documentary projects on Cleveland history where they dig through local archives, conduct interviews, and view the story of their city as a microcosm of American history.
Engaging and inspiring students in American history education has never been more important. As the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year, Ziemnik will serve as an important ambassador for the teaching community and thought leader on the importance of high-quality American history education for all, particularly students from underserved communities.
In addition to the national award, the Gilder Lehrman Institute annually recognizes a first-rate history teacher in every state and U.S. territory. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.
Ziemnik was selected from an extraordinary pool of 2017 State History Teacher of the Year winners. We encourage you to read our Q&As with this year’s winners on the Gilder Lehrman Institute blog. Learn more here.
Note: The Gilder Lehrman Institute is seeking exemplary K–12 teachers who find creative ways to bring history alive in the classroom and in their community. Candidates are eligible for both the state and national award. The deadline for 2018 nominations is March 31, 2018. Learn more and nominate a teacher at gilderlehrman.org/nominate.