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Institute for Public Administration Offers Professional Learning to Delawares Teachers

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From visiting Delaware's capital to traveling to Capitol Hill, this video highlights the lessons, speakers, and experiences of The Democracy Project's 2019 Summer Institute for Teachers.

Its not every day that you can strike up a conversation with the governor at a local restaurant, but one Delaware elementary school teacher had that opportunity thanks to her participation in the University of Delawares Democracy Project Summer Institute for Teachers.

This past January, Highlands Elementary third-grade teacher Kathleen Gormley stopped by Wilmington gastropub 8th & Union after school. It was soon after that she noticed Delaware Governor John Carney sitting nearby. I immediately recognized the governor, walked up to him and introduced myself as an educator who had met him twice previously through The Democracy Project, Gormley recalled. From there, the governor invited me to sit with him and we ended up talking for 45 minutes.

The Democracy Project, a civics education initiative under the universitys Institute for Public Administration (IPA), aims to improve the teaching and learning of civics and government in Delawares K12 classrooms through year-round professional development. Teachers participating in the projects annual summer institute meet with many of Delawares highest-ranking public officialsincluding Governor John Carney, Senator Tom Carper, Senator Chris Coons, and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochesterto learn about government and politics through the lived experiences of those who make public policy. 

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Scholars stand with Senator Tom Carper

The 2019 scholars pose for a photo with Delaware Senator Tom Carper (D) after visiting with him in Washington, D.C.

A Bridge to the Classroom

Educators from across the state participated in this years summer institute. The week-long itinerary included trips to our national and state capitals with visits to NPR, Delawares Legislative Hall, and Governor Carneys office in Dover. Participating teachers also learned new ways to teach Delaware's civics standards through engagement with model lesson plans developed by Democracy Project Director Fran OMalley and about the inner workings of state and national politics from IPA Senior Fellow and former Delaware Secretary of State Ed Freel.

Programming featured presentations by a range of local and state officials representing both major parties. Freshman State Senators Laura Sturgeon (D) and Anthony Delcollo (R) joined first-term State Representatives Nnamdi Chucouchka (D) and Michael Smith (R) to explain factors that motivate citizens to run for office and how their understandings of government have grown as first-time members of the Delaware General Assembly.

The 2019 scholars also had the opportunity to meet with and hear from Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, the State of Delaware Office of Management and Budgets Director of Policy and External Affairs Bert Scoglietti and Education Analyst Mary Nash Wilson, Delaware Secretary of Information Technology James Collins, Delaware Department of Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove, and Delaware Deputy State Court Administrator Elmer Setting.

In response to feedback from the projects alumni explaining the lack of knowledge and resources for teaching about local government, IPA policy scientists Sean ONeill, Julia OHanlon, and Marcia Scott engaged teachers in a highly entertaining role-play involving a proposal to create a community bark park. The simulation served as a springboard for teaching about the structures and functions of local governments using issues that arise in real communities.

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Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester visiting teachers

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester stopped by to visit with the 2019 scholars and discuss her beginnings in politics, her committee assignments, and the importance of civics education for the next generation.

Participating scholar Kathleen Gormley credits her experiences in the Democracy Project with establishing connections that have given her a voice. Recalling her meeting with Governor Carney, Gormley said, Initially, I had just stopped by to thank the governor for his work on expanding grant opportunities that affected the student population in my school. We then started talking about education and he asked me what I thought the number one thing schools in Delaware needed. I told him it was trained mental health counselors, which resulted in a longer conversation.

Several months later, Gormley was pleased to hear that Governor Carney asked the Delaware General Assembly to appropriate $75 million over three years both to help low-income students and those learning English as well as to address mental health in schools. Im sure I wasnt the cause of it, Gormley acknowledged, but if the governor had heard it from enough people, he probably realized that it was an issue.

For Gormley, the Democracy Project has played a significant role in helping to shape and inform the way she teaches civics education today.

Participating in this program is a great way to feel involved and knowledgeable about Delawares political system both as a citizen and a teacher, said Gormley of the institute. Having been able to meet with the state's governor and representatives at all levels allows for me to bring those connections and lessons back to my students and adds a level of excitement to their civics education. It makes it more personable.

It is difficult to think of a moment in our lifetimes, with all of the issues dividing the country, when there is a greater need for high-quality civics education, said OMalley. The Institute for Public Administration is proud to be playing such a pivotal role in the preparation and development of teachers who are helping our youngest citizens acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that might help turn things around.

The Democracy Projects summer institute is made possible through the generous support of Delawares Department of State. It is coordinated by the Institute for Public Administrations Fran OMalley, Ed Freel, and Leann Moore.

The Democracy Projects Summer Institute for Teachers 2019 Scholars

  • Marci Agnew (Cooke Elementary School)
  • Patricia Carlozzi (Tower Hill School)
  • Susan Clough (Tatnall School)
  • Brandon Dougherty (All Saints Catholic School)
  • Tresha Edmond (George Read Middle School)
  • Kathleen Gormley (Highlands Elementary School)
  • Samuel Holloway (Milford Central High School)
  • Thomas Janecka (Stanton Middle School)
  • Angelia Kowalczyk (William Henry Middle School)
  • Steven Mantegna (Seaford High School)
  • Shae Parks (University of Delaware)
  • Sheryl Persinger (All Saints Catholic School)
  • Lauren Rose (Stanton Middle School)
  • Brad Sawicki (Laurel Middle School)
  • Kristian Schmidt (Cape Henlopen High School)
  • Abby Sipress (Carrcroft Elementary School)
  • Jo-Ann Slater (Shue-Medill Middle School)
  • Thomas Slemko (P.S. DuPont Middle School)
  • Scott Swope (Sanford School)

About the Institute for Public Administration

The University of Delawares Institute for Public Administration (IPA) addresses the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development and the education of tomorrow's leaders.

About The Democracy Project Summer Institute for Teachers

The Democracy Project Summer Institute for Teachers brings together teachers to help them better understand how their government functions, gain an appreciation for the people in government and sharpen their skills to better prepare them to teach about democracy and the future of our democratic society in their classrooms.

Article by Chris Kelley.

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