Center Featured in UTEP Magazine

“History in the Making”

By Laura L. Acosta

Source: UTEP Magazine (Fall 2011), p. 36.
See in Magazine View | PDF (opens slowly)

The Center for History Teaching and Learning (CHTL) at The University of Texas at El Paso is preparing teachers to help their students better understand the lessons of the past.

Established in 2009 by the University’s history department and directed by Keith A. Erekson, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, the CHTL promotes scholarly teaching among the department’s faculty, supports teacher education for the department’s students, and provides professional development opportunities for teachers.

“We want to improve our own teaching, we want to prepare future teachers and we want to reach out to teachers in the community,” Erekson said.

The center offers lesson plans and other resources for current and future teachers on its website, www.utep.edu/chtl. It also sponsors workshops and
summer institutes.

In summer 2011, the CHTL partnered with Humanities Texas to host a four-day teacher institute at UTEP that introduced middle school and high school U.S. history instructors to new ways of teaching their subject from the Reconstruction era to today.

Another of the center’s major projects is TEKSWatch.utep.edu, a website created by Erekson and his students in 2009 to monitor the progress of the Texas State Board of Education as it revised the state’s social studies standards.

The site attracted national and international media attention from outlets including MSNBC, the BBC, Danish Public Television, Education Week and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“What we really wanted to do was just provide awareness, but it turned out that the whole world wanted to be aware of this story,” Erekson said.

Erekson is writing a book about his experiences with TEKSWatch, which he expects will be published in 2012. With the new social studies standards being implemented in fall 2011, the CHTL’s focus has shifted to helping teachers master the topics in the updated curriculum, which include religion and the founding fathers, conservatives in the 1980s, and the role of the Federal Reserve.

Kelley Akins, who is pursuing her master’s degree in history, has been involved with the center since 2009. She said it has provided her with a wealth of information to take into the classroom.

“It is a forum for teachers,” she said. “It is helping us become the best teachers we can be by taking these standards into the classroom and showing us how to make sure that our students are leaving with a wealth of historical knowledge.”

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