This post was written by Amara Alexander, the 2019-20 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the Library of Congress. We thank her for her many contributions this year!
For the 2019-2020 school year, I left the classroom and accepted a role as the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the Library of Congress. The year began with excitement as I explored the collections and the beautiful city of Washington, D.C. Leaving now is bittersweet because I wish to step inside the Library and view the Great Hall, walk through the tunnels, and personally say good-bye and thank you to friends and colleagues I have met during this time. As I bid farewell, here are a few of my highlights from this year.
I explored the digitized collections of the Library and located primary sources for teachers to incorporate into their STEM classrooms. Amazed to find rich resources, I wrote blog posts featuring my favorite items from the collections. Lessons I created were shared in local schools around the D.C. metro area. Walking back into the classroom for a brief moment reminded me why I decided to pursue the courageous profession of education. Something magical happens when students learn something new, and I missed seeing that ‘aha’ moment on the faces of students.
I drifted into various reading rooms, including Manuscripts, Prints and Photographs, and Science and Technology. I read the papers of the Wright Brothers, observed Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and studied images of the Tuskegee Airmen. In the Performing Arts reading room, I read the score of my favorite musical, The Sound of Music. Sitting for hours, I was in awe, reading and singing along in my head the lyrics of songs written by Tony and Academy Award winner Oscar Hammerstein II. In my mind, I would see the final adaptations of the songs, but instead I found something more beautiful than imagined. I saw the engineering/design process in the very drafts Hammerstein wrote himself on yellow legal pad paper and pieces of paper that mimicked receipts. The lyrics were penned, then marked out, and the words we know today were added in. His notes reminded me of the iterative processes I teach my students – STEM is everywhere. Hammerstein had the words of a song, yet he continued to improve the lyrics, making additions and subtractions to create the melodious songs we hear in his musicals today.My year at the Library of Congress has been phenomenal. From mid-day concerts hosted by the Folklife Division, attending the Gershwin Prize tribute concert, walking through the tunnels, and chats with Capitol Police, I truly enjoyed my time at the Library of Congress. It is a year I will forever remember.
To the Einstein Fellows of 2019-2020, I love each of you. This time we embarked on together continues as we return to our classrooms. Leaving this arena for another, we speak with more passion moving forward with our work as advocates and leaders in STEM education.
To the Library’s Learning and Innovation Office staff, thank you for gifting me this opportunity and welcoming me into your office for the past few months. I am beyond grateful and will think fondly of my time at the Library of Congress.
So in the words of Hammerstein, “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good-bye.”