Category Archives: SJVCSS

Book Review: Through the Redwood Curtain by Robert Burke

Bob Burke is front and center at the Foundation Bologna Feed.
Bob Burke is front and center at the Woodlake Foundation Bologna Feed.

At a Woodlake High School Foundation Dinner I attended recently, Bob Burke, the 2011 San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies High School Teacher of the Year, told me he had just published his first book, Through the Redwood Curtain.

Through the Redwood ForestI was thrilled for him, and anxious to read it, a story about places and times familiar to me.

McKinleyville collage

The main character, Steve, a long-haired student at the College of the Redwoods, transversed between his home, where he lived in a tiny trailer in an ultra-conservative, poverty-ridden McKinleyville trailer park with his brother and his brother’s wife, to his place of school and employment in Eureka, 13 miles away.  On the way driving south on Highway 101 in his rundown Volkswagen van Steve passed through the now progressive town of Arcata, home of Humboldt State University, just over five miles away from his home.  The two towns couldn’t have been further apart politically.  When folks for the two towns met and talked politics, it was like metal on pavement, driving on the rims.

arcata_420_redwood_park

Through Steve’s naive eyes, the reader sees the battle lines  being sketched between two ideologies, environmentally conscious students, and lumberjacks and fishermen barely scratching out a living as they destroyed some of the most pristine forests in the United States.  The destitution of the residents contrasted with the privilege and unappreciated wealth of the majority of the Humboldt State students from Southern California created a dramatic backdrop of political sparks that fueled this book’s plot from beginning to end.

COR

The drama didn’t end with politics, however.  Steve had his own internal combustion engine when it came to the love of his life, Cheryl, and their lonely times of separation, the abundance of drugs, family differences, friendships, and betrayals.  In addition, the death of Steve’s mother, the lack of support from his drunken father colored his emotions, and his own desperate financial situation added to the intense conflict of forces within the story.

firewood

Finally, the story wouldn’t have been complete without Steve’s $1.65 an hour job at Coastal Gardens Nursery in Eureka.  Steve worked with an assortment of characters, most of whom were paroles, students, or local tooth-free young women looking for good men – in all the wrong places.  Steve seemed to innocently bound through his mixed up world always seeing roses through his fog colored spectacles.

Rusty-VW-Van-for-Ascension-of-Jerry-prologue2

All of the dramatic facets and interludes of Steve’s life seem inextricably intertwined into the life of his rusty, fussy old VW van.   Could it be that the opposing forces in Steve’s life wouldn’t begin to come together as long as he had the troublesome VW?  Or would his troubles only deepen if the old van ever died?  To find that answer you will have to read the book.

Common Core Standards

While this is a work of fiction, I think most high school teachers could use this with their students studying modern U.S. history, and would find Through the Redwood Curtain more than just a fun read.  Of course they could analyze the characters and setting, both of which are part of the new standards.  One of the important aspects of being a historian is to know the author, and understand the lens through which the book is written.  Robert Burke graduated from Humboldt State in the 1970s, so is a primary source when it comes to the issues found in the book.  So did Bob have an agenda when writing the book?  Did he see like as a wealthy college student, or did he, because of his own lack of funds, identify more with the conservatives who also had financial troubles bigger than the Redwoods?  How would the book have been different if written from the perspective of the owner of Coastal Gardens Nursery?  These are topics with which students have to grapple in their Common Core classrooms.  In my opinion this story would be an excellent one for examining perspective.

If you know Northwest California, and love the complexity of the simple life found there, you will love this book.  Read it and pass it on to a friend or two that went to Humboldt State in the 1970s.  They probably knew Steve – even though he is fictitious.  I felt like knew him – back when.

National History Day – California – Tulare County a Huge Success

This was my first year in the past twelve years NOT to coordinate Tulare County’s History Day event.  The job now falls on my dear friend, Joy Soares, who took my place as the History Consultant at the County Office.  She has enough energy and ideas for three people, and indeed more than three people kept very busy bringing this exciting day to fruition.

Joy Soares dressed in 1940s style including a black line drawn up her leg.  Styling, Joy!
Joy Soares dressed in 1940s style including a black line drawn up her leg. Styling, Joy!

My job in all of this was to represent two volunteer organizations, San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies (SJVCSS), and Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS).  Both organizations had booths, and both gave scholarships to students.  This was the first year we named any of the donations from these organizations.

Three tables for three organizations.  Tulare Treasures, TCHS, and SJVCSS
Three tables for three organizations. Tulare Treasures, TCHS, and SJVCSS  See me manning the tables?  OK I’m a little ghostly, but there’s my coat.    800 ISO picture – much better!

Two individuals from TCHS were especially instrumental in bringing TCHS and History Day together, Stan Barnes and Madeline Franz.  When I first started coordinating History Day, the Fresno County Historical Society actively supported the Fresno County event, and I didn’t even know who the Tulare County Historical Society was or how to find them.  Then Sharon Doughty created a website, and I made a phone call.  That next year Madeline Franz judged for our event.  The next year she brought friends, Don MacMillian, Terry Ommen, and Stan Barnes.

Madeline is a kick.  You'd love her.  Her daughter is sitting next to her.
Madeline is a kick. You’d love her. Her daughter is sitting next to her.  You can see Terry Ommen behind her with his arm up like he is taking a picture.  He was. 

Stan was particularly taken with the project, and insisted that the Society donate money as long as it didn’t get swallowed in a “black hole.”  The society also contributed a large amount to a group of students from Kingsburg, CA who were going to National History Day in Washington, D.C.  What an opportunity for students who had never been out of Tulare County!  TCHS bought tee shirts one year so that when our students went to state they all dressed alike one night and really stood out in the crowd of thousands of students.  This year was the first year that the Society specified scholarship amounts, and named the scholarships.  Unfortunately, Stan Barnes passed away just a few weeks ago, so did not see what the scholarship named for him will do for students.  His daughter attended the awards ceremony.

Stan Barnes' daughter is at the ceremony to present the scholarship with President, Jill Brown.
Stan Barnes’ daughter is at the ceremony to present the scholarship with President, Jill Brown.  Stan’s daughter is the smiling blond woman looking towards me.  The blond in the background was my boss at TCOE when I retired.  Jill Brown is not wearing brown, but yellow.

Madeline also participated in the awards ceremony, bringing her family with her.  TCHS President, Jill Brown presented both awards.

Seating was tight, so I had a hard time getting in to get the right angle on the picture.  I still need a lot of work as a professional photographer!
Seating was tight, so I had a hard time getting in to get the right angle on the picture. I still need a lot of work as a professional photographer!  Someone was not extremely excited to be there for the presentation part.  This is Madeline’s family.

SJVCSS is the local affiliate council of the California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS) It is a professional organization for social studies teachers, administrators, and professors, and really is NON-profit.  Each year since I started as coordinator the organization gave $50 to History Day, and I used it to purchase things we needed for the event.  This year we upped it to $100 and created an Exhibit Scholarship in the name of Marvin Awbrey, Father of History Day.  Marvin is from Fresno County, just north of us.  He IS the Father of History Day in California, the man who brought it to Fresno County, then the state.  He also served as the judge captain of the Exhibits Category for many years.  At the awards ceremony yesterday, I made a presentation speech, and Marvin gave the scholarship to a deserving exhibit designer, Mr. Wilson.

By this time, I had learned to bring folks where I want them, not take a snapshot!  I learn SO slowly!  :)
By this time, I had learned to bring folks where I want them, not take a snapshot! I learn SO slowly! :)

I will write a more professional article that has student names and a little less silliness for the Los Tulares, the TCHS quarterly magazine available to members.   My blogging friends have to put up with all my foibles, bad photography, and antics.  It is SO fun to be retired and be able to be silly.  There is something to be said for that second childhood!

Here are some other photos if you are a parent or an interested bystander that just loves HD.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

January – Thirty years ago student teachers HAD to be a member of a professional organization as part of their graduation requirements.  Although it is no longer mandatory, social studies teachers who join California Council for the Social Studies become the leaders in their field as they meet colleagues from across the state, and make friendships that last a lifetime.  In January the CCSS Executive Board asked to serve as the First Vice-President, replacing a member who had moved to Colorado. In May CCSS members voted me in as President-Elect, and in June, 2013 I will serve as the President of this organization.

Marsha Lee - Soon to be VP
Picture taken at the 2011 50th CCSS Anniversary Conference exemplifies the serious nature of the soon to be new VP.

February – In 2011 I become officially involved with the Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS) as their recording secretary.  This year TCHS decided to adopt a broken-down caboose, remains of the old Visalia Electric Railroad, as its project of the year.  To kick it off the Society held an event at the museum so that people could take a look at the caboose, and see how much work it needed.  It had definitely seen better days, but its good bones, charm and appeal made it the best project ever.

Year of the Caboose

March  – At the 2012 California Council for the Social Studies Conference I enjoyed some amenities as the new First Vice President.  Although I shared the room with the Conference Chair, it WAS a HUGE suite.  With size came responsibility.  Several parties important meetings took place in this room.

Party with me, First VP, Marsha Lee
Party with me, First VP, Marsha Lee

April – I started blogging April 17th just as this busy month got into full swing.  Our San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies Banquet honored our County Superintendent, Mr. Vidak, my boss.  Most teachers, and in our case social studies teachers, seldom receive recognition for the hard work they do, so this banquet is the highlight of our year.  Instead of being serious and boring, this year everyone played the part of stand-up comedian.

Banquet6

May – National History Day California or State History Day.  Set in historic Riverside, CA at the Mission Inn and Convention Center, this was a photographer’s dream.  Now that I was officially a blogger, I appointed myself the official photographer of this huge event with nearly 1,000 students aged 4th-12th grades attending.  Unfortunately I didn’t know how to focus my camera at this point, and with lasik vision – one eye distance and one eye close, nothing ever looked in focus, and often wasn’t.  One of the participating students taught me how to focus my camera.  Students from all over the state display their year-long theme-based projects:  exhibits, documentaries, performances, papers or websites for 6-12th grades, and posters for 4-5th grades.  They present to a team of 3 judges who have the difficult decision of determining which of these amazing projects will advance to the National Competition in Washington D.C.

Little did the History Gals realize this would be our last NHD-CA event together.
Little did the History Gals realize this would be our last NHD-CA event together.

June  As the school and fiscal year ended, we came to the last year of a three-year cohort of teachers who participated in the Tulare County Teaching American History Grant.  Each year we had a one week institute during which time teachers went on a short field trip, worked with primary source materials, received scholarly lectures each day, and translated all of this learning into a lesson plan.  This was our last week together with this group of teachers.  For their final project teachers presented their lesson plans to the new cohort of teachers.  We toured the Railroad Museum, Old Town Sacramento, and the Bicycle Museum in Davis.

TAH1

July History Ladies go to Shell Beach  May was our last official meeting as County History Consultants, and three of the four friends moved on to different responsibilities.  We decided that instead of loosing touch, we would travel somewhere in CA once a quarter.  Our week-end at Shell Beach cemented the already strong friendship with crazy dancing in the kitchen of the rented house, cinnamon rolls, pictures of a walk in San Francisco where clothes are optional, feeding baby animals at Avila Barn, roasting marshmallows over the stove after the barbecue ran out of charcoal, and sun bathing on the beach.

July History Ladies' Vacation

August – Retirement  Once I made the decision to retire, that’s all I could think about.  My last day was funny because I fought with my poor secretary about why I dressed casually that day.  She knew I was having a party, and I didn’t.  Paula took me in hand, and took me get a new dress for the party I didn’t know I was having.  Ivette was already dressed for the party, so we posed when I got back from my spree.

IvetteMarsha

September -V and I decided to start taking advantage of retirement right away with a trip to the beach.  Lots of walks with Kalev until one day it started raining, and it didn’t stop.  We scurried back home.

Family Beach Trip

October – We arranged a week-long trip to our timeshare in Hawaii to Ka’anapali Beach Club.  It was almost like coming home.  We preferred October to December which was cold and rainy last year.  We had a great time rolling around in the surf, horseback riding, and eating.

Hawaii_109

November – The National Council for the Social Studies Conference took me to Seattle.  We really did go to meetings, sessions, and had a chance to socialize.  I finally went to the dance they have on Friday nights.  I walked all the way back to the hotel to change into a dress.  Walked back.  Got to the dance.  Where were all my friends? Felt really hot – had my dress on backwards.  Went to the rest room to change.  Got back to the dance.  No friends.  Cajoled poor Joel into letting me teach him the West Coast Swing.  One dance.  Left.  My friends got to the dance just after I left. Leslie and I went to see Twilight Part 52 or something like that.  Then I walked home after midnight.  Got lost, helped a lost soul find HIS way in Seattle (that’s a switch), and finally made it back to the hotel safe and sound.  Had a $65 dinner at the Space Needle for two rotations of the restaurant.  Had a great time!!

December- Home At Last  For the first time all year I hardly traveled during December.  Oh whatever would I find to occupy my retired time?  Hmmmm How about an online birthday party for Renee?  Christmas with PT and the kids, started going to Kiwanis Club, read some great books, blogged, blogged, blogged, and ……

…..poof the month was gone!!! Woah!!!!  What happened???  Did anyone else have that problem???

Teachers Pay Teachers

Want To Make A Million Dollars?

One of the services I do for SJVCSS is Chair the Curriculum Committee.  During the last adoption for History-Social Science I was fortunate to be selected to serve as a Reviewer.  Although I was unable to perform that role, I was involved at the county level after the adoptions were available to districts.

With the coming of the Common Core Standards individual teachers are beginning to search for materials on their own.  One of the most logical places to look for materials is the internet.  On September 27  CNN’s Martin Savidge aired a story featuring “a small town kindergarten teacher (who) becomes a millionaire and says other teachers can become just as rich too.”  I was curious about the website, and the materials, so I am reviewing the site, Teachers Pay Teachers in this post.

Before I start let me tell you how curricula is approved for use in public schools in California.  In the state of California curricula has to pass numerous criteria including alignment to current California subject matter standards and, in the case of history-social studies, the history analysis skills. The California state board adopted curriculum for grades K-8 is checked by curriculum specialists and teachers before it is adopted by the state of California and is available for purchase by districts.  This committee turns over their findings to the Instructional Quality Commission which ultimately approves each publisher and their materials.   After that a district committee looks through the reviewers’ notes, examines the textbooks and makes a decision as to which materials the district will adopt and use for the 6 (or so) years after that.  It takes a long time for curriculum to reach teachers because it is reviewed extensively before it can be mass produced.  This is not the case in the free market place.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a free market for teachers to sell their own materials. This is a review primarily of how the site is organized, not a judgement of the materials that are sold there.  On the home page, the menu is categorized several ways.  At each grade level, you can see how many materials for all subject areas are available.

Examining the subject areas I chose social studies to begin my research.  At the top of the menu bar you can choose your grade level.  You can see below that  there isn’t much to choose from in general social studies.

At that point I could choose a grade level or a branch of history.  Below are the first seven choices listed alphabetically.

When I went through the grade level first the choices for social studies seemed much fewer.

So I went back and looked at Asian studies.  There was only one MP3 available.  It seems that these numbers don’t agree.  How did 317 items become only 1 item?

Another way the materials are sorted are by type.  Several of these types are listed below.  They are in alphabetical order.

Next they categorize materials by price.  The website, Teacher Pay Teachers, offers several price choices to teachers.

Finally teachers could browse by several other criteria.

Browse by:

Choosing the state of California, the website took me to biographies of contributors, and how they were rated by their users.  Most of them posted how many years’ experience they had teaching.  Most contributors had at least 10 years experience.  One as little as 4, and one as many as 50.  One teacher I noticed posted that his students tested well.

  

Finally, I went back to social studies.  On the left the menu further divided the resources by grade level. This menu indicates that there are 4100 items social studies items available for third grade alone, and more for the next two, whereas in an earlier menu I found only 7 items.  This confused me, so maybe one of your reading this will be able to clear that up for us. 

Clicking on third grade brought me to units like “Me on the Map”.  This particular product is designed to accompany a book with the same title.  I’m not familiar with the book, but the illustrations in this particular product look professional.  It includes a description of what a teacher will find inside the project book.  “2 writing prompt pages: Each begins with, “If I could travel anywhere on the map I would go to…” (which is could lead to the higher skilled opinion-type of writing.) There is a primary ruled option and an intermediate ruled option. Both have a space to illustrate their writing.”  This teacher, like many others, has created a website to tell more about the products they are offering.

While it is not a fair sampling to check out one product, it would take a tremendous amount of time to do a thorough examination of each item and determine if it meets, not only the social studies standards and analysis skills, but also the Common Core English language arts standards as well. 

In the short time I have taken to look at the website, I haven’t really formed an opinion of the quality or reliability of the products within the website itself.  I think it is a great idea to be able to share resources and be paid for them.  I also know how much expertise and time it takes to develop resources.  In history-social studies, the biggest push is to use primary sources and to help students to read informational texts.  In the lower grades at first glance I saw what I’ve seen for years in school supplies, coloring for Columbus Day and other holidays, and art projects.  These products are rated highly by teachers, but there again we don’t know the expertise level of the teachers rating the materials either.  Do these teachers want rigorous materials, or just something to keep the kids busy?  I would like to see that the teachers that are producing the materials as well as the ones rating them are members of a professional society for their subject matter, such as National Council for the Social Studies, or their state and local affiliated Council. 

While I am not saying that the products are not credible, there are many vetted, free, or low cost curricular materials available from recognized non-profit organizations such as the Center for Civic Education, Constitutional Rights Foundation, California History Project, California Council for Economics Education, and the California Geographic Alliance.  Many of these products are developed by teachers working with subject matter experts in higher education.  They are approved by social studies professional organizations such as California Council for the Social Studies of the California Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee’s Sub-Committee for History-Social Science. 

Materials abound in all subject areas.  As you spend your hard-earned money on curriculum, be sure that you check all the sources that are available.  When it comes to what you are going to take into your classroom, reliability is key.

If you purchase or bring in any of your own curriculum, what criteria do you use to choose the best materials?  How do you know what to buy?

Finding My Journal

Thank you all for visiting my site yesterday – I had 100 views!  I don’t know about the rest of you bloggers, but that fact makes me forget that I have any other worthwhile work to do, and makes me want to think of what to write to y’all today.   I do love that contraction.  (I’m not a Southern Belle, but I just love using it in honor of PT, who reads my blog every day.  Thanks PT.)  Don’t you just love her dimples.  She’s amazing, but that’s another story. One of the unanticipated benefits of retirement is to have my library all in one physical location.  That means I found my journal that I kept during my Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute.  These are VERY cool.  They are handmade – even the paper.  I was afraid to write in it at first because I didn’t want to mess it up. So I may bore you from time to time, sharing my reflections that accompany the hundreds of photographs I took while I was there, and have just sat in my Facebook gallery, my external hard drive, and who knows where else.  I didn’t want to spend time too much time writing about them because I didn’t want to get my facts wrong. And I didn’t want to spend time researching when I knew that somewhere I had written downs tons of notes.  Ah the bane of not having a photographic memory.  Just think what a joy I could be to y’all if I could just remember things perfectly.  Actually I remember large bits of things, but somewhere they get jumbled, and my facts get scattered, and come out incorrect.  Then, because I am supposed to be somewhat of a history guru, I am embarrassed when I err, and my guru credibility is lost.  But I meander…In addition to being Clementina Rind for the week, I was also assigned to be on the Military Committee.  I had no recollection of that for several reasons, but I wrote it in my journal, so  it made SOME impression at the time.  Clementina is still with me 4 years later.  I was really into taking pictures of 18th century military life.  I have 97 pictures, and NO Notes!!  The sad thing is that we participated in amazing feats of war.  I accidentally hit the woman next to me in the face with my wooden musket when we were standing in formation practicing loading aiming, and firing our supposedly harmless weapons.   I didn’t volunteer to attempt loading the cannon.  It was real.My entry for the day we went to Yorktown reads, “I forgot my journal when we went to Yorktown. ”  

Ever consider what it might have been like if you got a toothache on the battle field – or even back home in the 18th century?  When I was a  dental assistant, believe me none of our instruments looked this vicious.  Of course, without my notes I don’t know if these WERE dental instruments or something with which to take out bullets.  Whichever, the look malicious, and I know there was no anesthesia involved.  No laughing gas.  No Novocaine. No topical anesthetic to numb your gums BEFORE you got a shot of NO Novocaine!!!  So maybe these wicked tools for the little balls that came out of muskets.  The point is I FORGOT TO TAKE MY JOURNAL.  Do you see how disastrous the effect merely four years later???  Can you imagine if I waited 40 years to label my precious pictures?George would never have forgotten HIS journal.  This desk was center stage in his tent.The troops did eat, and what you see in the background is part of the outdoor dugout oven.  This piece of equipment, as I recollect, was not a branding iron, but had something to do with cooking.  Wish I had taken my journal.This was my 75th picture.  I bet you are wondering what’s in the box.  Well, if I had brought my JOURNAL, I could have told you, but NO, it rested safely in my room where it wouldn’t get dirty.  (It still isn’t dirty.)  Judging from the pictures sequentially around this photo, which I can see, but I won’t bore you with, the box has something to do with canons.  My solid hypothesis is that it holds cannon balls.  Where is Mike Lebsock when you need him?  Probably sitting in his Colonial Williamsburg home office writing memoirs in HIS JOURNAL.  Or maybe he’s sketching.  He actually painted the middle picture right above his books.  What a talented SJVCSS President we have!!!  When I got back I quoted Clementina as saying, “I have watched as this revolution became inevitable.  I published Thomas Jefferson’s first declaration.  I strained to see this conflict that I might rejoice at our freedom.  Freedom of the press (of course that was of GREAT interest to Clementina), which we have as British citizens, but which could as easily be taken from us, as surely as taxation without representation has already been taken.  I regret that I did not live to report this great event.”Don’t try to read THAT quote, I photographed a page that had better handwriting!!!  Then I did what I do most in my journals.  I introspected.  “Its amazing to me to understand what bravery and sheet luck has play a part of my privilege of being born and raised as an American woman.  This privilege becomes clear and dearer as I age and I realize the foundations that were laid to make my life possible.”  I still stand by that statement.The moral of this story.  Buy a journal.  Take your journal with you.  Write in it.  Don’t lose it.  Then share it with someone.

Common Core FAQs Relative to History-Social Studies

Today our San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies had their big planning meeting.  One thing that came out of that was the need for a one page FAQ sheet for the Common Core Standards for Social Studies teachers in particular – to quell their fears of the unknown.  This is all I got done this afternoon.  See what you think of it, and tell me what else you thing should be on it.KNOWN ASSESSMENT FAQs

• Common Core Assessments for ELA and Mathematics begin field testing in spring 2014.
• Common Core Assessments for ELA and Mathematics begin testing in spring 2015.
• There will be History-Social Studies reading and writing tasks included in the test for language arts.
• These assessment tasks will NOT be aligned to the California History Standards, but the reading complexity, or lexile levels, will be appropriate for the grade level of the student.
• The CST for ELA, mathematics, history-social science, and science will be given until 2014 when it will sunset.
• There are sample test items on both the Smarter Balanced and the PARC websites.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
• We don’t know what will replace the CST tests for History-Social Science and Science

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HISTORY-SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS
• We know a consortium has been working on Common State Standards for History-Social Studies.
• We know the standards will be presented at the National Council for the Social Studies Conference, November 16-18 in Seattle, WA
• We know that the one of the primary developers will present these standards at the California Council for the Social Studies, March 6-8, 2013 in Burlingame, CACome and join us if your on the left coast this year.  We are going to have a major Common Core Conference within our regular California Council for the Social Studies Conference – 8 hours of intensive training in the Common Core Standards and how they pertain to teams of History-Social Studies/English Language Arts teachers.

Here is a FAQ sheet from Sacramento County Office of Education  http://www.scoe.net/castandards/multimedia/common_core_faq.pdf

The Source, Journal of the California History Project which published an article of mine. http://www.ccss.org/Resources/Documents/CommonCore_Source.pdf

“Preparing Students for College, Career and CITIZENSHIP:
A California Guide to Align Civic Education and the Common Core State
Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies,
Science and Technical Subjects”, a white paper by Dr. Michelle Herczog, Los Angeles County Office of Education —http://www.ccss.org/Resources/Documents/Herczog-CCSSNCSS%20Journal%20Article%20for%20Matrix.pdf

Location, Location, Location Making the Most of Meetings

President Elect, Mike Lebsock, begins his term as San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies President on July 1, 2012.  In preparation he meets with Vice-President Elect, Justin Paredes, current President, Marsha Ingrao, and Treasurer, Marvin Awbrey to ensure a smooth transition.  Instead of meeting somewhere bland, the group of history buffs took a self-guided tour of Tulare County’s largest museums located in Mooney Grove Park.

Kearney Mansion Picnic and Tour

San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies is a network of social studies educators who enjoy coming together to learn and do things together.  We had our first event yesterday- a tour of Fresno’s Kearney Mansion.

I have been to the park many times for the Civil War Time Travelers Event through the Fresno Historical Society and the Tulare and Fresno County Offices of Education.    This was an opportunity for a private tour without 1,000 or more students there at the same time.    Perfect picnic weather, it was a sunny 80 degree afternoon with a slight breeze.  The adobe mansion was quite cool inside.

You might think that the mansion doesn’t look adobe, but the frame exterior covers about 10 in thick walls.  I learned that Kearney didn’t build this mansion for himself.  It was for his general manager, Ralph Frisselle, but he did live here for the three years prior to his death in May, 1906.  The plans for the castle he wanted to build for himself outlived him, but never got off the ground.

We spent a lot of time in the main office that housed the “Raisin King’s” business, the Fruit Vale Colony.  Notice the modern calculator and check writing device on the desk.  The 5,000 acre enterprise (colony) was like a town with a  grocery store, blacksmith, and all the other necessary businesses to furnish the live-in workers with everything they needed ( for a price).  The price for goods was paid in company script.

Kearney’s office keeping system was methodical and included a drawer of files on each individual crop as well as the businesses on his Fruit Vale Estate.  This was the office for the public.  Behind it was his private office.  Mike decided that Kearney’s personal desk would work perfectly in his office.  Sixty to seventy percent of the furniture is original to the house, so my guess is that Mike will not ever be able to take the desk home.

The hour went by so quickly.  We had plenty of time to ask questions, take all the pictures we wanted, shop in the gift store, which is in the outdoor kitchen.  Of course, I bought a book.  In the more than 20 years I have lived here, I have never taken the full tour, and I learned so much, had fun with my friends, and made new friends.  What could be better?  The rest of the pictures I took are in an album on the SJVCSS Facebook site.

SJVCSS wants to be in the business of organizing opportunities for fun and learning for social studies teachers and their families to do together.  There are many places to visit in the Valley, and we would like you to join us.  Where would you like to visit?  Let us know.  It’s more fun to do it together.

SJVCSS Awards Banquet

The Banquet started at 6:00 p.m.  Language Arts Consultant, Charlene Stringham, told her husband, “I’ll be home by 7:00 or 7:30 at the latest.  How long can it take to give away a few little History-Social Studies awards?”  When she looked at her watch at 9:00, she was shocked.  “It was so much fun.”

As guests arrived, Dr. Solis serenaded us  with continual saxophone music for at least a half hour.  We whistled while we worked  setting up, and everyone was greeted with a bit of song and a dance (mostly song).  What a pleasant way for people to enter the room.  He also played all during dinner.  Thank you, boss.


Cynthia Thorburn, Banquet Chair, welcomed the honorees and their families, and officially began the evening’s  festivities.

Justin Paredes and Matthew Ethen gave a quick overview of the purpose and value of being a member of the San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies.  “We want you all to join, ” they finished.

Before  the Teachers, Administrator and Professor of the Year received their awards, Joy Soares, an administrator from Kings River School and former CCSS and SJVCSS Teacher of the Year, introduced a special guest, Chelsie Muro.  This young woman presented the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Tragedy with such empathy and conviction that no one will ever forget the girls of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City and their sacrifices for better working conditions.

Next, a native of the Netherlands, Ed Boersma, shared a teaser of his upcoming presentation at Tulare County Office of Education on May 2.

You would have wondered how anyone could have followed Chelsie, but Ed brought a story about his parents during the Nazi regime and the incredible acts of courage they performed, and the audience hated that he couldn’t tell them the “rest of the story.”

The first honoree as Administrator of the Year, Mr. Jim Vidak, Tulare County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools, has long been a supporter of history-social studies, but being modest and somewhat shy, he doesn’t walk around waving all his trophies.

 Both Dr. Pansy Ceballos and Dr. Guadalupe Solis found some kind, and sometimes funny words to share.  Mr. Vidak wasn’t too sure how to respond, but he had his moment.  As he pulled out his notes to share his acceptance speech, an audible gasp was heard around the room from the other award winners.  They hadn’t been forewarned to bring notes!  Not wanting to forget anyone, even Mr. Vidak’s acceptance speech splattered praises for his  employees all over the banquet.

Tere Lopez, one of the gaspees, entertained the audience with last-minute notes after Dr. Jordine, also from California State University, Fresno, read acclaims about her contributions to keeping history from becoming history.  She has been a regular speaker at the Tulare County/SJVCSS Scholar Series.  We have notes published from her lectures on our website.  She was recommended for nomination, by one of her former students who is now in the final rungs on the ladder of becoming a social studies teacher himself.

The High School Teacher of the Year, Mark Riendl, from Tulare Union High School,  accepted praise from his principal, Dr. Michelle Nunley.  His acceptance speech went witty as he spoke without notes and avoiding the technology (microphone).  He just looks like a good social studies teacher, but  he might have been solicited for Comedy Central if we had recorded the Banquet instead of just taking pictures.

Kim Rogers, married to Mr. Rogers, stood and shared the story of how Mark, now knowing her, answered a call for help, and provided her with all the materials and advice she needed to get started in her teaching career.  She hadn’t been in touch for years, and was thrilled that he was honored for his great teaching.

There wouldn’t have been enough time to share all the wonderful stories about Gina Nelson, American History teacher at Cherry Avenue Middle School, even if we had eliminated the rest of the program.  Fortunately for Gina, Joy Soares didn’t embarrass her THAT badly.  I had a few remarks to add as well since I have used Gina’s classroom as a demonstration classroom for teachers I coach.  I always learn something I can use, too.  She was able to wing her acceptance without notes…

The evening wasn’t complete until Beth Dignan, fifth grade teacher from Kingsburg Elementary School District,  came forward to accept her award from Mary Janzen from Fresno County Office of Education.  Beth had to make some modest corrections as Mary sang her praises.

She informed the Banquet audience that she had not “TOLD” the Superintendent what she was going to do, but she had “asked” to teach reading using historical fiction rather than the language arts anthology.

The bonds that form between SJVCSS members is    sometimes emotional.  There were often wet eyes during the  ceremony.

Towards the close of the event, I asked Avi Black, California Council for the Social Studies President,

to come and say a few words – no warning, no notes – technology if he wanted it.  He came graciously recognizing the awardees for their dedication to history-social studies.

And with that I thought the awards were finished except for one last presentation to Cynthia Thorburn for her constant and consistent communication as she planned the banquet down to the finest detail.

There was one last surprise for me.  As outgoing president, the Council awarded me a plaque, which Marvin Awbrey, the long-time Treasurer and preserver of the Council told me I could not take home.  It had his gavel on it.  I was thrilled and totally surprised.

 Thank you to Rob Herman, Tulare County Office of Education PIO, for taking these pictures.  Thank you Ivette Lopez for the picture of Dr. Solis playing his saxophone.  There were far more pictures than I used in this article, and the rest will be available on the SJVCSS Facebook page.  Soon they will be uploaded to our new SJVCSS website, created and hosted by AIHE (American Institute of History Education).

Thank you all for attending this wonderful Academy Award Event for History-Social Studies educators to recognize the efforts of teachers and leaders who are keeping history from becoming history.