Basha High teacher earns fellowship to Harvard SanTan Sun News

Basha High teacher earns fellowship to Harvard

July 10th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Basha High teacher earns fellowship to Harvard
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By COLLEEN SPARKS

Managing Editor

A Basha High School history teacher is the only educator in Arizona chosen for a prestigious fellowship that will help him pay for a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Christopher Evans has received a James Madison Fellowship, which will pay for up to $24,000 of his course study toward a master’s degree.

The James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation of Alexandria, Virginia, awarded the distinction to one teacher per state. Several other Arizona residents applied for the fellowship for this year.

“I’ve always loved history, and I reached a point where I just knew that I wanted to go back to school and get a master’s, and I had heard about the fellowship from a former colleague, who had won the fellowship,” Evans said.

“I do believe it will make me a better teacher. I’ll be able to better teach the Constitution and get my students to think critically about how it affects their lives in a variety of ways. The fellowship is a wonderful thing. The promotion of teaching the Constitution and teaching about our funding is something that’s vital for young people to understand to help them to become a great citizenry and I’m very grateful,” he added.

Born and raised in Mesa, Evans just finished his 10th year teaching, all at Basha High. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in secondary education from ASU.

This past school year he taught advanced placement macroeconomics, AP U.S. History and AP comparative government classes. This coming school year, he will teach AP U.S. history, AP macroeconomics and an eighth-grade class on citizenship and civic engagement, as Basha High has an accelerated middle school.

Evans already has completed two online classes toward his master’s degree in liberal arts with a concentration in history.

He will need to take some classes in person on Harvard’s campus in Massachusetts – which he might do over Basha High’s winter break in January.

Next summer, he and other fellows will take four weeks to study the Constitution at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. as part of the fellowship requirements.

In order to be considered for the fellowship, Evans had to complete an extensive application that included writing essays on how to incorporate the U.S. Constitution into teaching and getting students to understand the principles of the Constitution.

Since the foundation began providing the fellowships, it has awarded more than 1,500 fellows, said Lewis Larsen, president of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation.

The application is rigorous and it’s not unusual for teachers to apply three or more times before they are chosen for a fellowship, Larsen said.

He said he was impressed by Evans’ outside educational activities, including participating in the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers, which brings teachers from around the country to Washington to participate in several educational activities tied to teaching about the high court.

Evans also is on the Teacher Advisor Board for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

“He’s a pretty serious person,” Larsen said. “He went to Arizona State, and that’s a great university. He’s got some interesting activities. He’s doing lots of stuff to keep himself involved in civic education.”

The fellowship is named in honor of the United States’ fourth president and supports secondary school teachers’ further study of American history if they want to teach American history, American government and social studies in secondary schools around the country.

The fellowship gets its financial support from a trust fund in the Treasury of the United States and from additional private gifts, as well as foundation grants and corporate contributions.

The honor is intended to honor distinguished and promising teachers, to boost their knowledge of the roots and development of American constitutional government and, consequently, to share accurate knowledge of the country’s constitutional heritage with the country’s secondary school students.

“Americans don’t know anything about our government,” Larsen said. “They can’t tell you who even the vice president of the United States is. Our nation is in an emergency. If a student doesn’t learn about how government works in high school, they probably never will.”

The country needs inspiring teachers who can help students understand they are important, and if they have complaints, they can voice their concerns and find ways to get elected officials removed from office, he said.

Basha High School principal David Loutzenheiser is proud of Evans, saying he gets students excited about history.

“I think it’s a great honor for Chris to help recognize a lot of his effort and energy to really be a positive impact in the classroom,” Loutzenheiser said, adding:

“Chris is really passionate about government, economics and history, and he shares that passion with our students. He does a fantastic job for us. He gets the kids not just to be regurgitators of ideas but to think for themselves. That’s a hallmark of our social studies as a whole.”

Evans and the other social studies department teachers at Basha help students become more informed about how the impact they can have on government and to “make our students more civic-minded and civic-engaged,” Loutzenheiser said.

The Arizona Department of Education named Basha High as one of the 35 schools in the state being honored as 2016-17 Arizona Civic Engagement schools.

Basha was one of eight Arizona Civic Engagement schools to receive the Arizona Schools of Excellence label, the most prestigious distinction of the Arizona Civic Engagement schools,

“I love getting students to think about the past from as many perspectives as possible,” Evans said. “Just understanding history allows us to be so much more educated in our decision-making as we move forward. History gives us perspective. Understanding the Constitution is crucial for being an engaged citizen.”

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