, Muskogee, OK

November 7, 2012

History grant motivates teachers to be historians

— By Travis Sloat

Times Correspondent

George Kunsman wears many hats in the Fort Gibson school system.

He is the director of operations, an advanced placement American history teacher, and he also heads up the history club.

If you ask him what his favorite part of his day is, he’ll tell you it’s the two classes a day he gets to teach American history to juniors and seniors.

Kunsman is one of three teachers at Fort Gibson involved in the “Project Inspire: Arkoma Teaching History Grant” headed up by Dr. John Turner, superintendent of the Arkoma School District.

The grant provides hands-on instruction and subject-related field trips for history teachers in the Arkoma area. Kunsman said it has motivated him to teach as a historian in the classroom.

“It pulls teachers together and lets them brainstorm with each other,” Kunsman said. “We get to discuss the relevance and importance of history and try to think of ways to get the kids more interested.”

Mike Roe, the Social Studies department head, and Mona Lashley, an elementary teacher at Fort Gibson, are the other two teachers who have been a part of the grant.

Roe said the grant was originally supposed to be for five years.

“They’ve had to cut it to three because they’re out of money,” Roe said. “It’s a large grant, and it covers a lot of smaller districts. It has been a wonderful teaching aid. I’ve been able to use all of my notes from the past three years to teach Oklahoma History this year.”

The grant has given the teachers the opportunity to go to Washington D.C., Boston, Mass. and Williamsburg, Va. Roe said he’s been able to use the money saving aspects of those trips in his Economics classes as well.

Students at Fort Gibson have noticed a definite change in the teaching style of Kunsman.

Whitney Stroup and Wyatt Abbott are both juniors who are taking AP American History, and they both agreed Kunsman presents history to them in a very relatable way.

“He’s not a teacher that just throws information at you and leaves it,” Abbott said. “He’s very interactive. He takes the material and breaks it down. Books are almost supplementary in his class.” Stroup said they have worked their way up from the Constitution to the presidential race, which they are writing an essay about.

“His class is very relaxed,” Stroup said. “He uses real life examples to make sure we understand what we’re covering. His essays have helped me write better essays in other classes even.”

Almost as an afterthought, Abbott and Stroup take turns sharing a mutual thought.

“History is one of the hardest classes,” Abbott said.

“But it’s the most fun,” Stroup said.

Kunsman said he has used a lot of the information he has gotten from the grant teachings to apply towards the field trips he takes the History Club on.

“We’re planning on going to St. Louis this year,” Kunsman said. “We’ll go to the arch, and get a sense of Manifest Destiny.”

He also said grants like this are wonderful opportunities for teachers. “There are a lot of very professional people who are a part of it,” he said. “We have some wonderful college professors share material with us. I think it is very important that we have a part in this grant.”