Accomplished Teachers Help Create Informed and Engaged Citizens

May 2, 2019

As a National Board Certified Teacher, I feel empowered and propelled to advocate for the best possible civic education for all students in order to create informed and engaged citizens who feel confident to participate in civil discourse.

Nothing is more exciting than having one of your students hurry to class to tell you that they registered to vote, or that they watched a debate on TV, or that they are changing their major because they have become passionate about the subject of political science and history. I get so excited when I see my students engaged and enthusiastic about what I teach.

As we know from our study of political science, school is a political socializer; not as much as family, but students spend a lot of time at school and it’s our job to teach them HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

Becoming a National Board Certified teacher armed me with the confidence that I knew my students best. With this knowledge, I took on a challenge. I had three different AP Government classes that did three completely different final projects. One class held a mock presidential campaign and debate, another held an impeachment trial, and the last class did a moot Supreme Court case. I gave loose parameters, solid objectives, and a timeline. They did the rest.

That year, I had let go of the control of making the “perfect” project and guided my students in their learning instead of forcing them. They explored the content and showed me what they knew in a way that I would have never seen otherwise. Because my students were allowed to be creative and collaborative, they became more civic-minded in college. After high school, students were running for their student senate or taking leadership roles in student life. They saw they could be change makers because they were allowed to make a change to an assessment in a high school class. I guided them, I trusted them, and I let them be learners. This is all thanks to pushing myself to focus on who THESE kids are, in THIS class, RIGHT now.

Kids learn differently. Kids show what they know differently. National Board allowed me to celebrate that and to take the focus off a teacher-centered classroom where the sole objective is to plow through the content and give a test. The focus in my classroom is my students and that focus is guided, in part, by content. How will they best learn this content to make them better citizens, more engaged voters, or take action that is informed and productive in their community and society as a whole?

The unintended side effect of this was an increase in AP test scores and more students taking the challenge of an AP class who may not have otherwise. Giving students a space to create and show you their learning pushes them past where they thought they could go. Someday, I will see one of my students sworn into public office or as a community leader. I may see them as a civics teacher or posting about a protest or march they took part in. Through National Board, I’ve learned to open the door for my students where they are now and show them the possibilities of what they can do and become.

Elizabeth Schley, NBCT

Elizabeth Schley is currently in her 16th year of teaching and has taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including 8th grade (12 years) and AP Government and Politics (5 years). Schley has also dabbled in APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Development and a Master’s in Secondary Education, History from Northern Arizona University. Schley currently writes blogs for social studies teachers and and loves to help teachers as they move along their educational journey. Schley has been to many amazing professional developments including a weeklong stay at Mount Vernon, a weekend stay at Montpelier, and attending decisions at the Supreme Court. She is on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council and a part of the iCivics Educator Network. Schley states she is most proud of her National Board Certification in 2009, as well as her renewal within the past year.