OLMITO — The best way to understand history is to become a part of it.
Elizabeth Carr has spent long hours emphasizing that point to her students while teaching history at South Texas ISD Academy for Medical Professions. So effective has been her approach to teaching that she has just been named a recipient of the Humanities Texas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.
“There are many teachers who apply for the award from Humanities Texas every year, so I’m honored to have been considered and then to have received the award,” said Carr, 39, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. history.
Humanities Texas is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization presents annual statewide awards to encourage excellence in teaching. Carr’s award recognizes exemplary humanities teachers in grades kindergarten through 12.
Carr spoke with passion about her approach to teaching history beginning with her participation in a project with Harvard University. That project emphasizes promoting civic education in history classes. Through that project she has encouraged students to become active participants in class civic discussions related to the history lesson.
“That’s one of the things that highlighted the way that I teach my class,” said the married mother of two children.
One of the missions of Humanities Texas, she said, is ensuring that humanities education is being promoted. It emphasizes direct student involvement in such classes as literature, government and history. Humanities Texas furthermore encourages the application of those classes toward the fulfillment of civic duties as members of a democracy.
This speaks very well to the kind of history Carr teaches, and that’s part of the reason she received the award. She explained in more detail her teaching style with regard to the Harvard program.
“They have wanted to create this idea of having the students read case studies and participate in the historical event,” she said. “The students create conclusions at the end of these case studies. That’s part of what I wrote about when I was nominated for this award.”
Carr, a 1999 graduate of Porter High School in Brownsville, has been a teacher for about 15 years.
“Really what’s most enjoyable is watching the students grow, watching them challenge themselves, watching them prepare for the next step,” she said. “They’re kind of like already headed out of high school and looking toward the future for college and the work force.”
Carr’s love for history began with the particular way a middle school teacher engaged her and the other students in Texas history.
“As the years went by my passion for history grew,” Carr said. “I could see the historical patterns and historical connections to current events. I feel like if students have that historical perspective and understanding it allows them to navigate through things that are happening right now.”
The Elizabeth Carr file
WHAT: Recipient of the Humanities Teas Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award
OCCUPATION: Teaches AP U.S. history at South Texas Independent School District Academy for Medical Professions
EDUCATION: 1999 graduate of Porter High School in Brownsville; bachelor’s of arts in history with education component from the University of Texas at Brownsville; master’s of arts in history from the UTB
FAMILY: Married with two children