An Oak Ridge teacher will receive a Mullane Geography Teacher of the Year Award in March.
Brian Smith, seventh-grade social studies teacher in Oak Ridge, will receive the 14th Tom and Stella Mullane Geography Teacher of the Year Award during the 2016 Tennessee Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin on Friday, March 11.
The Mullane award is bestowed for superior achievement in the teaching of geography in the social studies in grades 7-12, a press release said. The award carries a $500 cash prize.
Smith has been informed that he will be this year’s recipient of the Mullane Teacher of the Year award for the outstanding work he does, ensuring that geography is a daily part of instruction in the Oak Ridge school system, the press release said.
Smith was nominated for the award by his principal, Jefferson Middle School Principal Phil Cox. Cox emphasized Smith’s dedication to the profession as one who “brings his academic and organizational talent to the classroom,” the press release said. Oak Ridge Schools does not have a dedicated staff person as a coordinator for social studies, so Smith is often asked to lead professional development sessions with his peers, Cox said. Smith has served as a core instructional coach and TCAP item reviewer with the Tennessee State Department of Education.
Cox said Smith’s “insight on curriculum standards and assessments has provided valuable and practical pedagogical awareness on best teaching practices.”
Also, Cox said, Smith showed further dedication during the drastic change in middle school academic standards by winning a Mapping Literacy grant, which allowed him to purchase pull-down map sets and create standards-based resources for every seventh-grade teacher and student in the district.
“The resources were designed to improve literacy in social studies,” Cox said. “Students are using these maps to integrate visual information, to determine central ideas, and to cite evidence.”
For many years, Smith has also spearheaded the Jefferson Middle School Geography Bee. This is a multi-tiered series of geography competitions involving all students in grades 5-8. It provides nearly 700 students an opportunity to participate as contestants.
Smith recently made a longtime dream come true, as he has been spearheading efforts to bring Geographic Information Systems (GIS) courses into the local curriculum, the press release said. This became a reality in 2015-16 with Jefferson Middle School’s “Eagle Time” enrichment program. During Eagle Time, students learn how to create Google maps with ArcGIS software. Smith has been actively involved with a ConnectED 2015 grant from Esri, the company that builds ArcGIS, the most powerful mapping software in the world. With this opportunity he has brought together ELL, resource, and social studies teachers in Oak Ridge as a cohort to engage students in developing geographic literacy through story maps. These maps display primary resources in Tennessee, emphasized by the state curriculum, the press release said.
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