08/17/08 — Goldsboro High School teacher attends prestigious civics seminar

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Goldsboro High School teacher attends prestigious civics seminar

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 17, 2008 9:44 AM

Following three intensive weeks as a student this summer, Goldsboro High School teacher Lynn Bull said he is even more excited about the new school year than in years past.

A history teacher at the school for 13 years, he just completed 18 days at the Presidential Academy for American History and Civics Education program, where he was one of 52 teachers -- the only one from North Carolina -- selected to participate.

The academy, introduced three years ago in the U.S. Senate by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander as a workshop for veteran and new history teachers to strengthen their knowledge and preparation for teaching, will be run for two more years. Bull applied last year and was named an alternate, so he went into this year's application process with no expectations.

It's a highly competitive opportunity, he said.

"They pick one from each state, plus Puerto Rico and American Samoa," he said.

The group of educators chosen was a diverse one, not only in age and background, but in the schools they represented.

"I think the biggest city where people were from was Reno," he said. "We had someone who taught at an Indian reservation, another who only had 90 students total at their school."

Prior to the 70 hours they would spend in the classroom, the teachers were sent materials, which translated to "70 pounds of books" to read in advance, Bull said.

"If you didn't read the stuff, you'd have problems," he said. "I had read most of it before I left. I didn't realize it was going to be 3,300 pages. I was afraid it would all run together because you're reading this all ahead of time, so I made a lot of notes."

While it might have been labor-intensive, Bull said it was beneficial to him as a teacher.

"It's good to get on the other side of the room every now and then," he said. "We were so completely away from everything -- you went to class, interacted, did the work, talked about it at lunch and dinner.

"To sit there and talk to other teachers and realize that they have got the same problems that you have got -- sometimes you forget what it's like to be a teenager."

The program was divided into three segments of six days each -- Philadelphia, Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. Part of each was spent in the classroom, while a portion was taken to visit historic locations in the vicinity.

Topics ranged from the Declaration of Independence, the "vision of democracy," to Gettysburg, the "extension of the promises," to DC, which represented the "fruition of the dream" and included the Civil Rights movement, Bull said.

"It was interesting to see the progression, things that we take for granted," he said.

Also in Washington, the group visited the House of Representatives, where Bull said he "made some inroads" with U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and Sen. Richard Burr, both of whom expressed an interest in speaking to Bull's classes.

Educators were treated to great speakers and tours, receiving a stipend and a bonus for creating lesson plans. Their only financial investment was transportation to and from, he said.

"It's an educational experience that you couldn't buy for a million dollars," he said.

And one he believes will make him a better teacher.

"I have more insight than I had before. My AP (advanced placement) kids are going to wish I had never done this, because if I had to read 3,300 pages," he said with a laugh. "But it was good for me because sometimes you get into a rut."

Prior to becoming a teacher through the lateral entry program, Bull had served in the military, been an optician and served as director of Bentonville Battleground. He has also enjoyed being a Civil War re-enactor, something that may have contributed to his participation in the Presidential Academy.

"Some of us were trying to figure out how we were chosen, what the selection process was," he said. In addition to background information, each had to write an essay on what he thought he could bring to the program.

"I think maybe that interest (in the Civil War) helped," he said.

Now, he hopes what he has received will be helpful to others. He said he plans to not only impart information to his future classes, but also hopes to use it for staff development and with his counterparts in the school system.

"I'm a great believer that things happen for a reason and I really needed this this summer," he said. "I have been revitalized and I'm raring to go. I'm always excited about coming back (to school) but I'm even more excited this year because you can't pay for what we learned. ... It's the best educational experience I have ever had in my life."