Glendale history teachers

Nearly 30 teachers from Glendale and Burbank pose with docents at the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, Calif. while on a field study in the Bay Area earlier this month that was paid for by the federal Teaching American History grant. The grant program has awarded Glendale Unified $4 million since 2001, enabling more than 100 teachers to travel the U.S. for field studies and history conferences. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Witt / October 18, 2013)

During the past 12 years, Glendale teachers have taken advantage of $4 million in grant funds to travel across the country to cities, museums and historical institutions to immerse themselves in stories of the past. But that appears to be coming to an end.

Their excursions were made possible by four $1-million grants that Glendale Unified has received since 2001 under the federal Teaching American History grant program.

But earlier this month, as 30 teachers traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to study California history, their trip also signified the last grant-sponsored excursion for Glendale teachers, as the U.S. Department of Education has decided to forgo renewing the grant.

More than 100 Glendale teachers have traveled to Washington, D.C., Colonial Williamsburg and Massachusetts, among other places, where they absorbed the turning points and political figures that shaped the nation.

Along the way, they’ve collaborated with fellow educators and returned to their classrooms with newly crafted lesson plans.

For Matt Hamo, a sixth-grade teacher at Glenoaks Elementary, the grant’s end is “extremely disappointing,” he said. “The professional development has been like nothing else in my 14 years of teaching.”

Since 2006, Hamo has traveled to various cities for conferences or field studies, allowing him to see the Freedom Trail in Boston and the Natchez Trace in Tennessee after visiting President Andrew Jackson’s home there.

Also skilled in math, Hamo said that by observing other educators give presentations about historical subjects at conferences, he was able to muster the courage to speak about math curriculum at a statewide conference a few years ago and has continued to give presentations ever since.

While in the Bay Area in mid-October, he and fellow teachers traveled to Angel Island, where German and Japanese prisoners of war were detained and hundreds of thousands of immigrants were processed for three decades, beginning in 1910.

They also visited the Port Chicago monument, honoring hundreds of military men, most of them African Americans, who died when 5,000 tons of munitions exploded at the Port Chicago pier in 1944.

Nancy Witt, a Glendale Unified teacher specialist, has overseen the grant and has coached her colleagues across grade levels in how to apply the historical resources they gained to their classrooms.

Teachers also regularly listened to historians, visited museum exhibits and participated in workshops — and the grant allowed them to be compensated for their time.

“It’s really given the teachers opportunities to grow and learn more — not just historical content, but to also learn about curriculum, lesson-writing and what works well for the students,” Witt said.

With the grant’s end, Witt said she will continue sending her weekly, 13-page newsletter with resources for teachers on websites, events, lectures and exhibits oriented to history.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s ending,” Hamo said, adding, “It’s been a blessing to have had it.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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