Sierra Vista Middle School History teacher Jonathan Millers received the prestigious Junior Division Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award, worth $10,000, at this year’s Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in Washington, D.C. This honor is bestowed upon one junior division (middle school) and one senior division (high school) teacher annually. The recipient of the national award is selected from the affiliate winners of the prize. National History Day has affiliates in all fifty states, Washington, D.C., China, Korea, Guam, South Asia, Central America, and American Samoa. Millers became eligible for the prize after winning California’s Junior Division Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award.
Millers has participated in National History Day – California (NHD-CA) for nine years. NHD-CA, sponsored by the Sacramento County Office of Education, is one of the largest state history competitions in the nation. Each year more than 40,000 students from 28 counties explore historical topics and create projects that are entered in school, district, and county competitions. County champions advance to the annual state wide contest which includes more than 1,200 participants.
“Mr. Millers has a love for history and seeing students engaged in learning,” said NHD-CA State Coordinator Craig Irish. “His passion is evidenced by the students who pack his classroom each day during lunch and before and after school to work on their history projects. We are proud to have Mr. Millers represent California as the Junior Division Behring Teacher of the Year.”
As an 8th grade History teacher, Millers engages his students with hands on activities such as historical court case reenactments, or encouraging students to adopt the persona of a historical figure. Sierra Vista began participating in the National History Day Contest as an extracurricular activity. However, after seeing its effectiveness to improve student skills in research, use of technology, reading, and writing, it was decided to expand the program. It is now a key component in the school curriculum. The annual school presentation of these projects draws more than 300 attendees, including former students who offer advice to the next generation of National History Day Contest participants.