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September 30, 2011
Karen Olsen Named Oregon’s 2011 History Teacher of the Year
Eugene Teacher Receives Top History Honor
(Eugene, Ore.) – This morning, at a press event at Eugene’s McCornack Elementary School, 5th grade teacher Karen Olsen was named Oregon’s 2011 History Teacher of the Year. The award was presented by State Board of Education Vice Chair Artemio Paz. As History Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Olsen received a $1,000 check and the school received a number of history related materials and resources courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of America and the History Channel.
“Karen Olsen is passionate about teaching history and she really knows how to make the past come alive for her kids,” said State Superintendent Susan Castillo. “Karen understands that teaching history is all about connecting students to stories and she does that in a range of creative and innovative ways. She writes historic musicals for the school’s students to perform and even leads her kids on history themed tours both here in Oregon and around the country. Karen is a model of how to engage, inspire, and motivate students. She is highly deserving of this special honor.”
A veteran teacher with more than 20 years of experience, Karen Olsen is a leader in both her school and community. In order to make lessons relevant and engaging, Mrs. Olsen utilizes a range of techniques including oral storytelling, study of historical artifacts, elaborate classroom projects, and class guests ranging from historical impersonators to veterans of the Afghan war. A strong believer in experiential learning, she takes students on trips around Oregon to learn about the state’s history and the history of Oregon Native American tribes. She also organizes an annual summer trip to the east coast to visit key historical sites first hand.
“When I started teaching, I knew it wasn't enough to just teach the facts of history,” said Karen Olsen. “It was also vital for children to question those facts by reading, researching, encouraging historical inquiry, engaging in hands-on activities with primary source documents, listening to experts in their field, and visiting historical sites. I have molded my entire teaching career around these beliefs.”
Mrs. Olsen is also active in her community and has partnered with the Lane County Historical Society Museum to help produce an oral history video archive and improve the museum’s website to make it more user friendly for teachers.
“It was a great honor to present this award to such a worthy recipient,” said State Board Vice Chair Artemio Paz. “Karen Olsen is a master of her craft and an inspiring example of excellence in teaching.”
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of America is a nonprofit organization supporting the study and love of American history through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars, and history enthusiasts throughout the nation. Learn more at: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/.
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