Ted Dickson '83

Ted Dickson
Kids Voting USA Jinx Patterson Education Award (Educator of the Year), 1995 Org. of American Historians 2002, 2003; U.S. State Department The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Outstanding Teacher of American History, 2011
I graduated from Princeton in 1983 (after doing my Teacher Prep student teaching at Franklin Township High School). I majored in History, concentrating on the Civil War and primarily working with Professor James McPherson. After graduation, I taught for one year at an American high school in the mountains above Salzburg, Austria and the following year I taught 3rd - 5th grade math and social studies at the Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts. I then moved to Michigan where for four years I taught 7th and 8th grade History at the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe. While I was in Michigan, I met and married my wife, Melissa. We then moved to California where I earned a Masters in Modern American and Modern European History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the fall of 1991, I began teaching at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Providence Day is a TK-12 independent school with all grades on one campus and about 1525 students. Since I was hired, I have served as the History Department Chair overseeing grades 6-12, and I have taught AP US History, US History, and a variety of other courses including electives I created on the 1960s and the Civil War. My three children attend Providence Day, and my wife is very active as campus volunteer. I have coached basketball and soccer and have been involved in a variety of other extracurricular activities.

In addition to my work at Providence Day, I have been involved in a number of professional organizations and projects outside of school. For example, I have been very active in the AP program, serving as an AP Reader for nine years and a Table Leader for five years. I have also been very involved in the Organization of American Historians. In 1997 after attending a number of national conferences, I decided to create a new model for presentations. I contacted a university historian who was an expert on the Civil War, Phillip Paludan at the University of Kansas, who agreed to work with me. Professor Paludan began the presentation by explaining what teachers should be teaching about the Civil War based on current scholarship. I then presented a series of lessons to show teachers how to implement Professor Paludan’s ideas. This model helps me be on the leading edge of the profession as well as improving what I do in the classroom. Our presentation was so well received that I repeated this model, pursuing a topic I am passionate about – the effects of the wars we have fought on our society and our place in the world. I worked with other historians to design and present lessons on World War II, the Korean War, and World War I.

These presentations led to a nomination to serve on the Organization of American Historians (OAH) Magazine of History Advisory Board, 1998-2001. In this position, I was able to influence the content of the premier magazine for the teaching of American history. I also published three lesson plans in the Magazine: teaching about art in the Gilded Age, a Road to World War I simulation, and a lesson comparing conservatism in the 1920s and 1980s. My involvement in the OAH and the AP program led to an invitation to be part of the OAH-AP Joint Advisory Board on Teaching the U.S. History Survey, 2003 – 2008. After a series of meetings, we decided to focus on the goal of the La Pietra Report issued by many American historians in 1999 that called for our profession to teach U.S. history in more of a global context. We called our project "America on the World Stage.” We commissioned a series of university historians to write essays about how to teach his or her area of expertise in a more global way. After we edited these pieces, they were then published in the Magazine of History. After we had received most of the essays, we decided to collect them into a volume that would be published, and we decided to commission a high school or university teacher to write a teaching strategy to accompany each essay, providing ideas for how to implement the ideas in the essay. I was selected to be the primary editor of the teaching strategies. My responsibilities included writing a model strategy, soliciting teachers to write the strategies, and editing their work. In the end, I wrote two of the strategies and co-wrote a third. America on the World Stage: A Global Approach to United States History was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2008 and was very well received within the history profession. In 2002, the Organization of American Historians honored me with the Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau Pre-Collegiate Teaching Award.

My work with the OAH and with the AP program led to an invitation by the College Board to be part of a national commission to update the Advanced Placement United States History course. The original commission convened in August 2006. Since that initial meeting, I have been asked to continue to serve in each new step in this process, and I have therefore been one of the leaders in the development the new AP US History course and the new AP exam. In July 2010, I was named the Co-Chair of the AP United States History Curriculum and Assessment Committee (the other co-chair is a college professor). I am the only high school teacher in the U.S. that has been part of this entire process. In 2010, I have presented some of the ideas we are developing at national conferences, in the process learning about new topics such as environmental history. I am currently continuing to work on this project as co-chair of the committee.

Recently, I have had a new opportunity to share ideas and build bridges with other teachers. Last March, I ran an all-day workshop for public elementary and middle school teachers in Charlottesville, VA. This workshop was part of the Federal Teaching American History grant program. I presented a number of lessons on Teaching American History through a Global Lens (including thinking about the global impact of the Declaration of Independence). This workshop must have been well received because Andy Mink, the Director of Outreach and Education for UVA’s Curry School of Education asked me to run another workshop. In January 2011 in Virginia Beach, I presented to 35 4th and 5th grade teachers on interactive ideas for how to teach the Civil War.

I have also been very involved in teaching about citizenship in the Charlotte community. I served on the Kids Voting Mecklenburg County Board of Directors for thirteen years and as the Chairman of the Board for six years. Kids Voting is a non-profit, non-partisan project intended to increase enthusiasm for and participation in voting today and in the future. The program raises $100,000 a year from corporate and individual donations, trains teachers, runs fundraisers, writes and distributes curriculum to every teacher in the county, recruits volunteers, and on Election Day organizes the staffing by volunteers of most of the precincts in the county. Kids vote on their own ballots and in their own election booths at their schools or at the actual precincts. They bring their parents with them so that the parents vote as well. This project has been proven to raise adult voter turnout wherever it has been implemented around the country. My involvement in this project has enabled me to build bridges between public and private schools in Mecklenburg County; despite some historic tensions, this is one example of complete cooperation. We serve all 150,000 students in Charlotte whether they attend public, parochial, independent or home school. I have also written curriculum for Kids Voting USA including interactive lessons on democracy in South Africa, democracy in ancient Greece and a lesson for elementary school students on the primary process in presidential elections. This last lesson is based on the premise that the Bald Eagle is retiring after many years of service, and the students need to choose a replacement. In 1995, Kids Voting USA honored me with the Jinx Patterson Education Award (Educator of the Year).

I am also lucky that I have had opportunities to teach citizenship and values to people from around the world. In 2003, I was one of several teachers who won the United States-Eurasia Award for Excellence in Teaching. This is a U.S. State Department program to promote democracy in Eastern Europe. I traveled to Russia for two weeks living with three different teachers and participating in dialogues with Russian teachers and high school and college students. In Charlotte, I have hosted a number of groups of international visitors for the International House and the Council for International Visitors. These groups have included educators, lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians from a wide variety of countries including Russia, Armenia, Belorussia, Kuwait, and etc. When the International House hosts visitors that are interested in learning about civic education, they bring them to PDS. I arrange lunchtime dialogues with PDS students and then I talk to them about civic education and Kids Voting.

I have been very lucky to be at a school that is so supportive of professional development and where my whole family is involved. This past year, the Head of the Upper School nominated me for the North Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution teaching award. Colleagues and former students submitted letters of support, and not only did I win the state award, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution selected me as their Outstanding Teacher of American History for the year.