National Winners

Since 2004 the National History Teacher of the Year has been awarded to recognize excellence in teaching history. To see more information about past winners click below.

2017 - SARA ZIEMNIK

2017 - SARA ZIEMNIK

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik of Rocky River, Ohio, has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year. Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony at a private club in New York City on November 8, where Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.

“When it comes to classroom instruction and content delivery, Sara Ziemnik is a master at her craft,” says Robert Winton, principal at Rocky River High School, “students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing, and other creative ways to relay historical events to high school kids. An item that isn’t normally measured by national or state mandated evaluation models, is the ability to develop and maintain relationships with students. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations all while keeping a smile on her students’ faces.”

Ziemnik has taught American history and world history for seventeen years at Rocky River High School, where she encourages her students to learn from one another, centering her classroom around debate, discussion, and inquisitive learning. “My students have the responsibility as American citizens to form their own opinions,” Ziemnik says. “Nothing makes me prouder or happier than a classroom full of voices—sometimes arguing, sometimes questioning, and always developing a unique identity and sense of self as Americans.”

In addition, Ziemnik deploys digital tools and works with the local community to bring the past alive for her students, including creating content for Cleveland State University’s “Cleveland Historical” app, where students can explore Cleveland history via interactive tours. In a project aligned with the app, her students create documentary projects on Cleveland history where they dig through local archives, conduct interviews, and view the story of their city as a microcosm of American history.

Engaging and inspiring students in American history education has never been more important. As the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year, Ziemnik will serve as an important ambassador for the teaching community and thought leader on the importance of high-quality American history education for all, particularly students from underserved communities.

In addition to the national award, the Gilder Lehrman Institute annually recognizes a first-rate history teacher in every state and US territory. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.

2016 - KEVIN CLINE

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Kevin Cline from Frankton, Indiana, has been named the 2016 National History Teacher of the Year. Started in 2004, the award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school.

Mr. Cline will receive a $10,000 award and attend a ceremony in his honor at the Yale Club in New York City on October 24, 2016. The award will be presented by Gordon S. Wood, who is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution.

Mr. Cline teaches United States history and government and world history at Frankton High School in Frankton, Indiana. He is also the Department Chair for Social Studies at his school and an advisor and board member for the National History Club.

“I am so incredibly honored and humbled to have been chosen for this award, especially when I consider the vast multitude of amazing educators around the country,” says Mr. Cline. “As honored as I am, however, it doesn’t match the privilege I have, every day, to work with the best kids. There is not a single good thing that happens in our classroom that isn’t because of them.”

Mr. Cline uses innovative digital tools in his teaching, such as incorporating social media into his lessons on Indiana state history, and worked with Indiana University to create Freedom Summer, an educational application on the Civil Rights Movement. He inspires his students to become more active citizens, and notes proudly that many of his students vote and volunteer at polling sites. He frequently shares his teaching methods in presentations through the Indiana Department of Education.

”I am in awe of Kevin’s passion for history education,” says Tim Bailey, the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Director of Education, “his method of teaching history as a storyteller along with his use of primary sources exemplifies the creativity and enthusiasm of a National History Teacher of the Year.”

In addition to the national award, the Gilder Lehrman Institute annually recognizes a first-rate history teacher in every state and US territory. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.

2015 - MARY HUFFMAN

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Mary Huffman from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has been named the 2015 National History Teacher of the Year. Started in 2004, the award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school.

Ms. Huffman will receive a $10,000 award and attend a ceremony in her honor at the Yale Club in New York City on October 19, 2015. The award will be presented by Robin Roberts, co-anchor on ABC’s morning show Good Morning America.

 

Mary Huffman and her social studies class sending "Treats 4 Troops" 

Mary Huffman and her social studies class sending "Treats 4 Troops"

Mary Huffman teaches fifth grade at Charles Pinckney Elementary, a public school in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She uses hands-on lessons to help her students “become active American citizens who make positive changes in the future.” Her students create care packages, write letters to US troops, and participate in veteran’s week celebrations by inviting soldiers into the classroom. Ms. Huffman has also designed an interactive unit that includes a WWII draft simulation.

“It is essential that the past is not forgotten, and teachers hold the tools to pry open old hope chests to uncover dusty photo albums from the past,” Ms. Huffman explains. Each week, she dresses up in clothing from the era being studied, allowing her students to get up close and personal with historic artifacts, such as twenties flapper dresses, nineteenth-century Native American fringed pants, and military uniforms from the Vietnam era.

“One of the most exciting things the Institute does is to award this prize that honors great teaching,” says Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. “I am in awe of Mary Huffman’s creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm. Her students are lucky indeed.”

In addition to the national award, Gilder Lehrman annually recognizes a first-rate history teacher in every state and US territory. Winners of the state awards receive $1,000 and an archive of Gilder Lehrman books and resources for their school library, and become finalists for the national award.

2014 - MICHELE ANDERSON

Michele Anderson, John Glenn High School

HISTORY® and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History are pleased to announce that Westland, Michigan, high school teacher Michele Anderson has been named the 2014 National History Teacher of the Year. HISTORY® and The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History have awarded the National History Teacher of the Year Award annually since 2004. It highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school.

“HISTORY® is pleased to join with the Gilder Lehrman Institute in honoring outstanding history teachers through the History Teacher of the Year award,” said Dr. Libby O’Connell, Chief Historian and SVP, Corporate Outreach for HISTORY®. “Michele Anderson exemplifies the best in history education, and we are proud to help highlight her outstanding achievements.”

Michele Anderson is a teacher at John Glenn High School, a public school sixteen miles west of downtown Detroit. She has been lauded for leading her students on creative and original community outreach and oral history interview projects with World War II and Korean War veterans. Her work has drawn the attention and acclaim of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Library of Congress, and in 2013 Ms. Anderson received the Michigan Historical Commission’s John B. Swainson Award for her efforts to preserve the memory of Michigan’s defense workers and World War II veterans.

“Students get excited about history when somehow it becomes real to them,” said Ms. Anderson. “Teachers have to help students make connections between what the student is learning and how that piece of history relates to something in their life. As teachers, we call it the ‘aha’ experience.”

Each year, HISTORY® and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History recognize exemplary educators who use creative methods to make American history memorable through the use of primary source documents, artifacts, historic sites, guest lectures, and other resources. In addition to the national award, HISTORY® and Gilder Lehrman acknowledge a first-rate history teacher in each of the 50 states, Washington, DC, the Department of Defense Schools, and US Territories. Each state winner receives $1,000 and an archive of books and resources from Gilder Lehrman and HISTORY® for their school’s library, and becomes a finalist for the national award.

“Honoring a great history teacher is one of the most rewarding things we do,” said Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, “because in celebrating Michele Anderson, we honor all teachers who inspire our children to learn about the people and events that shaped our country.”

Michele Anderson was selected for the National History Teacher of the Year Award from more than 1,000 nationwide nominees and was chosen by a panel that included Elaine Reed, former executive director of the National Council for History Education; University of Texas historian Jeremi Suri; 2013 National History Teacher of the Year Jill Szymanski; and Tim Bailey, Gilder Lehrman’s director of education.

As the winner of the award, Ms. Anderson will receive $10,000 and attend a ceremony in her honor in New York City. This year’s ceremony will take place at The Princeton Club on December 9, 2014. The award will be presented by historian Earl Lewis, former provost at Emory University and current president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

2013 - JILL SZYMANSKI

Video produced by: HISTORY® (The History Channel) 
HISTORY sent a crew to Wilmington, Delaware, to produce this short tribute to Jill, which aired during the National History Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony on October 21, 2013. 

 

Ms. Szymanski's acceptance speech at the award ceremony held in her honor.

Jill Szymanski, a 4th/5th-grade teacher at Red Clay Consolidated School District, Wilmington, Delaware, was presented the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year Award by Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences, Columbia University, at a ceremony at the University Club in Midtown, New York, on October 21, 2013. The National History Teacher of the Year annual award, co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, HISTORY®, and Preserve America, recognizes the country’s best K–12 American history teacher of the year with a $10,000 prize.

Jack Markell, Delaware Governor, in a surprise video message to Ms. Szymanski during the ceremony stated: “Teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in a student’s success. It is educators like Jill who have a special ability to bring out the best in their pupils . . . [She] sets an example that helps her peers improve . . . Thank you Jill, for helping to inspire all of us to ensure that we do everything we can to provide our young people the best possible education.”

HISTORY® (The History Channel) also presented a short video during the ceremony which filmed Ms. Szymanski and her students in the classroom. The video commemorated Jill for her excellence in teaching and featured Jill working hands-on with her students. (View the video at the top of the page)

Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation added: “The ACHP congratulates Jill Szymanski on being named the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year. Her passion for bringing the stories of history to life and encouraging her elementary students’ engagement in significant research and study is most commendable. It is history teachers like Jill who inspire students to become historic preservationists as they understand the importance of place and the protection of it to share with future generations.”

Jill Szymanski, 2013 National History Teacher of the Year, remarked: “I want . . . [my students] to grow up to be good citizens and active members of our democracy. I want them to know about the freedoms our country was founded on and to understand how hard our citizens are willing to fight to protect those freedoms . . . Having the skills to overcome obstacles and face challenges head on is a skill I hope they take with them when they leave me.”

Ms. Szymanski holds a Master of Education, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Delaware and has taught at Brandywine Springs School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Wilmington, Delaware, for more than thirteen years. She creates learning environments for her students that encourage them to explore history in inspired ways. Students demonstrate their knowledge through multimedia projects, oral presentations, acting, and painting. They also develop critical thinking skills by researching competing primary source documents and debating differing viewpoints in class. She has previously received the 2012 Brandywine Springs School Teacher of the Year Award and was a Red Clay Consolidated School District Teacher of the Year finalist.

Jill Szymanski, 2013 National History Teacher of the Year, with two of her forme    Jill Szymanski, 2013 National History Teacher of the Year, with two of her former 5th-grade students

In conjunction with the award ceremony and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City, Ms. Szymanski and two of her students, and select colleagues and family members also received a private tour of the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Ms. Szymanski’s school received an archive of history books and automatic membership in the Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School Program, an expansive network of more than 3,000 schools across the nation committed to improving history education.

Ms. Szymanski was selected out of a pool of more than 1,000 applicants nationwide and is the 10th honoree of the National History Teacher of the Year Award, started in 2004.

2012 - JOSHUA BILL


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presented the 2012 National History Teacher of the Year Award to Josh Bill, a teacher at Waukegan High School in Waukegan, Illinois, on December 4, 2012. The award, including a $10,000 prize, was presented by Caroline Kennedy at the Frederick Douglass Academy, a public Gilder Lehrman flagship school in New York City. Bill was nominated for the award by his colleague Ali Schultz, an English teacher at Waukegan High School.

Mr. Bill is “just another historian in the room” as he allows his students to take the lead in discussions on complex issues in American history. His students are prepared to offer and defend their positions through the information that they have gathered from analyzing primary sources, a cornerstone of Mr. Bill’s classroom. Whether it is through a reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill in the school auditorium or a simulation of a Supreme Court hearing, Mr. Bill’s students are experiencing history through creative projects.

His students become immersed in historical research during preparation for the Chicago Metro History Fair, part of the National History Day Competition. In his first few years teaching, Mr. Bill revived the program at his school and has since led his students to success at the local, state, and national levels of the competition. He also reinvigorated a partnership between Waukegan High School and the Waukegan Historical Society that allows students to conduct research on the history of Waukegan. Several projects have gone beyond the competition to make lasting contributions to the local community. For his dedication and many classroom initiatives, Mr. Bill has been recognized by National History Day, the Illinois State Historical Society, and the Center for Civic Education. He is also active in mentoring new and future teachers through his alma mater, Lake Forest College. “As they enter my classroom,” says Mr. Bill, “students are unaware that they will leave not just as historians, but with an appreciation of the fact that American history resonates with their lives.”

 

  2011 - STACY HOEFLICH

  2010 - NATHAN MCALISTER

  2009 - TIM BAILEY

  2008 - DAVID MITCHELL

  2007 - MAUREEN FESTI

  2006 - GERRY KOHLER

  2005 - ROSANNE LICHATIN

  2004 - KATHLEEN COCHRANE KEAN