, Muskogee, OK

November 16, 2012

History teaching grant praised

FG instructors say it has helped them, and students agree

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Correspondent

— FORT GIBSON – George Kunsman is the director of operations, an Advanced Placement American history teacher, and also the head of the History Club in the Fort Gibson school system.

Kunsman says his favorite part of the day is the two American history classes he teaches to juniors and seniors.

Kunsman is one of three Fort Gibson teachers involved in the Project Inspire: Arkoma Teaching History Grant headed by Dr. John Turner, the 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.

“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 head of the social studies department, and Mona Lashley, an elementary school teacher, are the other Fort Gibson 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; and Williamsburg, Va. Roe said he’s been able to use the money-saving aspects of those trips in his economics classes.

Fort Gibson students have noticed a change in the teaching style of Kunsman. Whitney Stroup and Wyatt Abbott are juniors taking AP American history, and they agreed that Kunsman presents history in a very relatable way.

“He’s not a teacher that just throws information at you and leaves it,” Wyatt said. “He’s very interactive. He takes the material and breaks it down. Books are almost supplementary in his class.”

Whitney said the class has worked its way up from the Constitution to the presidential race.

“His class is very relaxed,” Whitney 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, Wyatt and Whitney take turns sharing a mutual thought.

“History is one of the hardest classes ...,” Wyatt began. “But it’s the most fun,” Whitney finished.

Kunsman said a lot of the information from grant lessons have been applied toward History Club field trips.

“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 said grants such as this one 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.”