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Living the Dream: Reflections on a Year as Library of Congress Teacher in Residence

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This post is by Rebecca Newland, the 2013-2015 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

I first encountered the K-12 education program at the Library of Congress when I attended a Summer Teacher Institute in August 2012. This one week altered my thinking about student engagement and my role as a librarian working with students and teachers. After I returned to my school library, positive experiences using primary sources prompted me to look for additional opportunities at the Library of Congress. This led me to apply to be the Teacher in Residence. My selection was a dream come true.

Learning from primary sources, Summer Teacher Institute 2012

In my first blog post as Teacher in Residence, I set a number of goals: to connect primary sources to literature, to create research questions to advance inquiry, and to foster library skills. I was able to meet these goals in a number of ways and to reach out to teachers and librarians with approaches to working with primary sources and teaching research skills.

  • I am particularly proud of a blog post suggesting resources and strategies for addressing the controversies surrounding Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a frequently-taught and frequently-challenged work of American literature.
  • In another post I offered suggestions and resources for using primary sources to inspire students to write their own research questions.
  •  Two additional posts furthered the discussion about primary sources and research by examining how sourcing and contextualizing can strengthen analysis.

I also wanted to become a better teacher, librarian, and resource for students and teachers. I was able to meet this goal by facilitating a variety of Library of Congress professional development workshop experiences–some face-to-face here at the Library, some in local schools, and some online.

These offerings introduced educators to strategies for using Library of Congress primary sources to engage students, build critical thinking skills, and construct knowledge. The energy created by educators engrossed with primary sources during these sessions was infectious; I floated on air, knowing that they were experiencing what I did when I first realized the power of primary sources. They returned to their students excited about strategies for using primary sources.

Exploring the stacks during a Main Reading Room Tour, Summer Teacher Institute 2014
Exploring the stacks during a Main Reading Room Tour, Summer Teacher Institute 2014

Working with teachers during our Summer Teacher Institutes was a great honor. Amazing educators from across the nation traveled to Washington, DC to immerse themselves in topics across the curriculum, including civil rights and sciences such as chemistry and biology. These were perhaps the most exhausting and invigorating five weeks of my career.

Throughout the process of writing, creating resources, and working with teachers and librarians, I have had the chance to see a wide variety of amazing items in the Library’s collections from Walt Whitman’s journals to Alexander Graham Bell’s letters to civil rights activists’ oral histories. I look forward to another year in this amazing place working with knowledgeable and dedicated professionals who inspire me with their enthusiasm for educators and students.

Comments (4)

  1. The collaboration and learning was amazing at the the Library of Congress Summer Civil Rights Teacher Institute. Participating teachers appreciated Rebecca’s guidance and contributions as we learned to use primary source documents with our students. Rebecca, I’m looking forward to learning about all your “second year” discoveries as you share those via posts. Thank you!

  2. I am a fan of Rebecca’s insightful blog posts, her guidance during the Summer Science Seminar, as well as her influence on that whole week. I look forward to more this year!

  3. Congratulations Rebecca! Year two will be even better. Thanks for all your hard work.

  4. I was a participant in a two-day session on Using Primary Sources that Rebecca led this summer in Virginia Beach, her home school district. The activities were engaging and Rebecca’s knowledge was impressive. I am inspired to plan lessons incorporating the LOC resources. Rebecca, your excitement for these materials is contagious!

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