Adult and Lifelong Learning Student Recognized as Top 10 Civics Teacher of the Year Award Finalist

Jessica Culver, an Ozark High School civics teacher and graduate student in the College of Education and Health Professions Adult and Lifelong Learning Program.
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Jessica Culver, an Ozark High School civics teacher and graduate student in the College of Education and Health Professions Adult and Lifelong Learning Program.

For many, the fluorescent-lit hallways of a high school don't inspire change. To Jessica Culver, a classroom full of teenagers sparks the desire to create a space for the next generation to feel like they matter.

After 21 years of teaching in the public school system, Culver was recently recognized as a top 10 finalist for the Bill of Rights Institute's nationwide Civics Teacher of the Year Award.

Culver is a graduate student in the College of Education and Health Professions Adult and Lifelong Learning Program. She teaches civics at Ozark High School and has had a relationship with the Bill of Rights Institute for several years.

"The Bill of Rights Institute has wonderful non-partisan but really deep-thinking programs and lessons for teachers and students," Culver said. "Teaching civics is a great resource for helping kids think in depth and make real-world connections."

The Bill of Rights Institute is a non-profit organization that serves as a resource for students as well as teachers. The group places high value on teachings surrounding the Constitution and the subject matter of civics in the classroom.

Each nominee submitted an essay discussing the relationship between education and a free and just society. Top 10 finalists received a $1,000 cash prize.

A typical week for Culver's students consists of guest speakers, community service and field trips, she said. The class is full of hands-on experiences such as reading at the local elementary school, working at early voting centers, planting flowers throughout the district and painting the campus.

In an effort for the high schoolers to become civically engaged, Culver has her students write letters to and even meet with members of Congress via Zoom.

"I'm trying to give them tools to see how they can make a difference in their community through all of our community engagement activities," Culver said.

A lesson that Culver said she learned from a young age was that her voice could make changes in the world, and since then, she has made it a goal to give others a chance to feel the same way, starting in the four walls of her classroom.

"After I learned that, I wanted to help other kids learn that they have the ability, even in high school, to make a difference, and there are things they can do now to really have an impact," Culver said. "I think there's a lot of moments when I thought, 'Wow, my voice can really make an impact,' and I want to help my students see that same thing."

Contacts

Marin Mcgrath, communications intern
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, mm164@uark.edu

Shannon Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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