Russell teacher gains spot in White House program

May 5—ASHLAND — A Russell Middle School faculty member has won another honor: English teacher Lauren Brewer will spend a week in July in Washington, D.C., for The White House Teacher Institute.

Last year, the Russell native was one of 20 teachers out of about 300 chosen to attend a conference at Ford's Theater and Abraham Lincoln's time in the federal government. This year, studies will focus on the White House and its place in history.

"Much like the Ford's Theater experience, acceptance is based on a highly competitive application process," Brewer, who also is the Beta Club sponsor and arts and humanities coach, said. "However, the application pool for The White House Teacher Institute is exceedingly larger than Ford's as it is considered one of the most prestigious teacher summer institutes."

Funded by the White House Historical Association, which was founded by First Lady Jackie Kennedy, the program for teachers started in the 1970s and aims to provide information about history that might not otherwise have been known.

"All these programs are intended to broaden the scope of history and get us out of the idea of teaching in a linear way," Brewer said. "This is their way of trying to branch out and do a lot of cross-curriculum."

Cross-curricular teaching encourages teachers of different subjects to collaborate and bring multiple disciplines into a single course of teaching. That's why those teaching subjects other than history can benefit from the program. Brewer said her students respond to that style of teaching.

"It's more than memorizing," she said. "When they make these connections, they retain the information and help to develop their critical thinking skills and it's the best way to do that. Project-based learning and collaborative learning. It's such a neat opportunity for me and for my students. Anybody, really."

Most of the White House program occurs in a building next to the White House, and participants have been warned they will not meet the president or First Lady.

"Previously, the president and First Lady have shown up, but they don't promise anything," Brewer said.

For Brewer, it's not so much about winning a spot in the prestigious program as it is the opportunities for her as a teacher and for her students.

"It is truly an honor, one that I wasn't expecting, as I know there are thousands of accomplished educators vying for this opportunity," Brewer said. "Needless to say, I am over the moon with excitement for this next venture."

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