The district teamed up with the Cherokee County Historical Society and offered a weeklong series of professional development courses in which teachers are able to learn from local historians different aspects of Cherokee County history.
The program was spearheaded by Dr. Sharron Hunt, the volunteer coordinator of educational programs with the historical society.
Dr. Hunt, who retired in 2010 as principal at Carmel Elementary School, said the initiative involved morning classroom time in which people who know Cherokee County would teach various aspects of the county’s past.
In the afternoons, teachers were taken on field experiences where they visited the county’s historic places.
Mollie Guy, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Indian Knoll Elementary School, said she “absolutely loves the class” because it’s a good mix of lectures and field experiences.
Guy said she’ll be able to include the history of Cherokee County to make what her students are learning “more real.”
“Adding in stories of real people makes it so much more interesting,” she said. “And because my family has been here since the beginning of the county, a lot of what I’ve been learning about connects to those ancestors I’ve researched for years.”
Hunt said the professional development initiative was part of a larger plan the district and the society has partnered on to allow students to tour the Cherokee County History Museum, the historic courthouse and the historic jail and the River View Cemetery.
“When we were planning the tours, we realized a natural spinoff should be to train teachers so they will know what’s involved and add to their knowledge base before they bring their students on one of the tours,” Hunt said.
Historians who participated include Lisa Tressler, who discussed the county’s early settlers; Reinhardt University’s Dr. Kenneth Wheeler, who taught Cherokee history during the 19th century; Jeff Bishop, who instructed on the county’s role in the infamous Trail of Tears; former Waleska Mayor Marguerite Cline, who gave a lecture on the history of education in Cherokee; and historical society Executive Director Stefanie Joyner, who talked about how to preserve Cherokee’s history.
Meghan Griffin, the society’s education director, discussed archiving the county’s history.
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor Rebecca Johnston also gave an overview of Cherokee County as it experienced the multitude of changes during the 20th century.
Jennifer Lee, a student of Dr. Wheeler, presented a lecture on Gus Coggins, who owned the land where the Rock Barn sits as well as the property where Cherokee High School and Canton Elementary School now stand.
The field experiences included a walk along the Crescent Farm, a tour of the historic courthouse, a paddle trip along the Etowah River and a county-line bus tour.
The course was available at no cost to the district and its teachers, said Jackie Miller, the district’s supervisor of professional and staff development.
Miller said Hunt approached the district with the opportunity as she “understands the educational benefit of a link between the Cherokee County History Museum and Visitor’s Center and standards-based student instruction.”
Miller said the course will also provide instructional material that meets Georgia Professional Standards, or GPS, and the state’s Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, which can be useful to teachers.
“This course offers teachers an opportunity to tie social studies and literacy standards instruction, primary documents and resources, as well as a museum experience all to the area where the students and their families live and work,” she added.
Hunt added the initiative was a perfect chance for local teachers to take advantage of the professional development opportunity in their own backyards.
Hunt said teachers are “life-long learners” who have to continue acquiring fresh knowledge in order to keep their students engaged in the learning process as well.
River Ridge High School 11th grade U.S. history teacher Robert Daniel said getting to know the historians who taught the classes will allow him to make his history lessons “far more personal” for his students.
“Almost every aspect of U.S. history can now be taught with an eye on Cherokee County and how state and national issues impacted the home front,” he said.