A St. Paul teacher is among an elite group of educators selected for a national award.

Wendy Harris, a teacher at Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, has been named a master teacher through a partnership between National History Day and the Library of Congress. The 10 recipients were chosen from 65 applicants, and Harris is the only Minnesota teacher among the 10 honored.

Together, the teachers are creating a guide for teachers nationwide to use to implement National History Day programs in their classrooms, she said. The guide will include primary source documents from the Library of Congress.

The teachers will travel to Washington D.C. in the summer to visit the Library of Congress and work with staff, although plans may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Harris said her experience teaching deaf students affected the type of research she does. Most of her students are learning English, which she considers when selecting primary sources.

Harris said she tries to find something thought provoking that requires critical thinking skills and is visual, so that a language barrier doesn’t prevent her students from understanding the document.

Harris has been teaching at Metro Deaf School since 2004. All students at the school have a hearing impairment, but some are blind as well. Harris has made National History Day programs a requirement for her students in the history classes she teaches.

“Even if they’re struggling in English, even if their academic skills are not perfectly at grade level, it’s a great opportunity to really delve deeply into a topic that they are interested in,” she said.

Harris said her love for languages piqued her interest in teaching the deaf. Her first job was teaching children from Mexico who had never been to school before and were learning a language for the first time. She has been participating in National History Day programs for seven years.

“I just think it’s really great that there are organizations and people and sponsors out there that believe in our teachers, and believe that we contribute a lot to our society and provide opportunities like this,” she said.

 

Katrina Pross (katrina.pross@startribune.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.