Pioneer’s Van Dusen earns fellowship from U.S. Dept. of Ed

It’s government teacher’s 2nd major fellowship in 2 years

See a U.S. Department of Education blog entry about Van Dusen and her recent hosting of President Barack Obama’s back-to-school speech in her classroom.

From AAPSNews Service

Tracey Van Dusen will wear a new hat this fall in addition to teaching government and American Studies classes at Pioneer High School.

In her new role as a 2010-11 Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, Van Dusen hopes to involve her AP Government students as well as teachers and the community to help Ann Arbor shape education policy in Washington during this school year.

Tracey Van Dusen (courtesy, U.S. Department of Education)

She said she hopes to do roundtable discussions that involve school and community members who are interested in education policies.

“It’s just such a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “I hope I can take full advantage of it and do this district proud, do the Department (of Education) proud.”

Van Dusen is one of 15 teachers around the country to be so honored. Five teachers will serve as Washington Ambassadors, working at the U.S. Department of Education headquarters in Washington, D.C. and 10 – including Van Dusen – will be Classroom Ambassadors, teaching in their home classrooms while working as fellows part-time this school year. She attended a Fellowship Summit over the summer where she spent time with department staff and other fellows.

“It’s a really exciting time to be doing this,” Van Dusen added. “Education is changing and I hope people become engaged in these discussions.”

Even more students will have the opportunity to become part of policy discussions in Van Dusen’s classes. In years past, there was usually two or three sections of AP Government, but this year, she has four sections and many more students, mainly because of the implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum – which requires more rigorous graduation standards starting with the Class of 2011.

In a typical advanced government class, Van Dusen said she not only teaches about the structure of government, but also engages her students in discussion and that includes talking about today’s political blogs. “They love to argue,” she said. “They are often highly partisan on both sides.”

She said it is important to keep students engaged and interested and “open to both points of view. Kids need to get all the information they can to make informed decisions,” she said. One of the most important things is that they do well on the AP Government test.

“Obviously, I would like them to leave (class) finding information, thinking critically and knowing how government works.”

In its third year, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowships program was created to give outstanding teachers an opportunity to participate in education policy development and to contribute their expertise. They serve as the voice of teachers at the Department of Education and serve as ambassadors to other teachers, students and parents across the country. The Ann Arbor Public Schools has signed an agreement with the federal government to allow Van Dusen to participate in the fellowship.

The 2010-11 fellows join a network, working with the Department’s 38 previous fellows from the first two years of the program.

This year’s fellows were selected from 500 applications from teachers and instructional specialists at charter and traditional public schools from around the country. Applicants submitted essays about their leadership, impact on student achievement, and insight into educational policy from school and classroom experience. Applications were received from teachers at every grade level and instructional area in urban, rural and suburban schools, according to information from the Department of Education.

Van Dusen is the only teacher representing Michigan in the program. She shares the honor this year with teachers from North Carolina, Maryland, California, New York, Virginia, Missouri, Vermont, Florida and Washington state.

Although Van Dusen said being a Washington Ambassador in the capitol would have been fun, she is happy to remain in her classroom at Pioneer. She has worked her entire career at Pioneer, including her student teaching and her permanent teaching assignment since 1987. Over the years, she has taught American History, Western Civilizations and Government and AP Government.

“I love teaching. I love the classroom,” Van Dusen said. She chose to pursue education as a career in 1984, when she was attending graduate school at the University of Michigan and watched a television special about the National Commission on Excellence in Education report “A Nation at Risk” inspiring her to respond to the call for teachers with a deep interest and strong academic background in their subject areas.

“My interest in pursuing a graduate degree was in large part due to my desire to teach, and I went to talk to an advisor in the School of Education the next day,” she said in a biographical summary for the fellowship application.

This is Van Dusen’s second major fellowship in the past two years. Last year, she was one of three teachers selected for a summer fellowship with C-SPAN, working on curriculum that the government network produces for teachers. She continues as a C-SPAN National Ambassador Educator, conducting workshops and exhibits at conferences and networking with educational leaders in the region.

Stemming from that experience, she and a C-SPAN fellow colleague combined AP United States History and AP Government classes on a social networking site last fall. They did interactive assignments using the Virginia Governor’s race as a case study for units on campaigns, voting, and elections that encouraged students to one step further and enter C-SPAN’s StudentCam competition. Then-juniors Michael Huang, Yusef Houamed and Darien Sharp earned an Honorable Mention from C-SPAN.

Van Dusen said she expects her fellowships to build one upon another and bring a level of richness to her classroom and to Pioneer and the district. She said she is excited about opportunities for other teachers as well. Anyone interested in pursuing similar opportunity can e-mail her.

Online: Find more information about the 2010-11 Teaching Ambassador Fellows as well as  additional information about the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship

About Tracey Van Dusen:
Tracey Van Dusen is a teaching veteran who has worked at Pioneer High School for her entire career with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Last year, she was part of the Summer Teaching Fellowship with C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., working with C-SPAN’s Education Team to develop and enhance its online resources for teachers. She is currently working for C-SPAN as one of 11 national Ambassador Educators and this year has been named one of 15 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows. In her classroom, she has sponsored student panel discussions with local Congressmen, invited a variety of higher education professors and instructors into the classroom to speak to students and encouraged her students to use technology in their learning. Van Dusen has a master’s degree in history and a bachelor’s degree in political science and plans to pursue a doctorate in either public policy or educational leadership. She has two daughters, both attending the University of Michigan.

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