, Muskogee, OK

May 13, 2010

MHS history teams headed for national contest

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer


Even after their last staff contract day May 25, school won’t be over for retiring Muskogee High School history teachers Diane Hill and Nancy Hightower.

The two must take two teams of students to the National History Day Contest this June in College Park, Md. The two Muskogee teams qualified for the contest by placing at the State History Day earlier this month. Their teachers say this is the first time their students have qualified for national competition in at least 13 years.

• Jericha McGill and Emily Finney placed second in Senior Group Documentary with their video about how social networking and other forms of media were used in campaigns. They are students in Hightower’s Advanced Placement European history class.

• Hill’s students, Ervin McCoy, Ja'Corie Maxwell, Michaela Morrison and Clarissa McJunkins placed second in Senior Group Exhibits with their display about Benjamin Banneker, a black scientist in Colonial America.

• Evantis Hill and Elasha Craine placed third with an exhibit about early African-American business leader Madame C.J. Walker. They are alternate national qualifiers.

Hill and Hightower, who have 62 years of teaching experience between them, agree going to the National History Day Contest is a great way to close their careers.

“It’s a neat way to top things off,” said Hightower, who has taught at Muskogee for 20 years. She said this will mark the second time she’s taken students to the competition. “The last time was 20 years ago.”

Finney said their video documentary shows how candidates through history have used popular forms of media.

“We talked about Franklin Roosevelt and the radio and the Kennedy/Nixon debates on TV,” she said.

McGill said Hightower helped guide the project.

“She said ‘yes, you need to have fun with it, but you also need to have historical relevance,’” she said.

Hill also is working with her students to improve their exhibit for the national competition. She said she has taken students to nationals four or five times during her 38-year tenure at Muskogee high school.

“The last time was 14 years ago,” Hill said. “We had some third place winners then, so I still had to make travel plans in case we went.”

This year’s qualifiers put together a wood display about Benjamin Banneker, a Colonial mathematician, scientist and almanac writer.

Ervin McCoy is part of the national-qualifying team. He said he’s excited about going to the contest.

“It’s the first time for me to fly in a plane and get to go to Washington D.C.,” he said.

Ja’Corie Maxwell said the team researched Banneker’s life by making several trips to libraries at MHS, Muskogee, Northeastern State University and the University of Oklahoma.

“We did not just do the Internet,” he said.

Ja’Corie said Hill helped them do a lot of the research.

Hill said her students have a lot of work to do to perfect their exhibits for national competition.

“I believe in success,” she said. “Students must believe in success. They are the future leaders of this country.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or