Fortified with a federal grant, local educators want to form a more perfect union between middle and high school students and the U.S. Constitution.
But first, they need a few good high school teachers.
It’s all part of the James Madison Legacy Project, named for the fourth President of the United States, considered the father of the U.S. Constitution, and the first three words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
Kern County educators have long participated in continuing education to hone their skills in teaching middle and high school government and civics classes.
That is, until federal funding lapsed several years ago.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, helped revive it earlier this year, generating bipartisan support in the House for the Center for Civic Education's grant application to the federal Secretary of Education.
The Center got its three-year grant, estimated at nearly $17 million nationwide, and early next year local teachers will host colleagues from the eighth and 12th grades as they learn more about the Constitution.
In fact, area educators are managing the state’s program, which is expected to directly train at least 150 teachers and reach more than 7,500 students.
It will include 30 hours of professional development in January, February and March, including a close review of the Constitution and one-on-one time with teacher mentors.
In April, 40 teachers from around the state will come to Cal State Bakersfield for Earl Warren Scholarship Day, and the following month a similar group including 25 Kern teachers will tour the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
“I’ll be training teachers statewide, but right now the focus on the activities for this first group will be in Kern County,” said Terri Richmond, who teaches 12th grade social studies at Golden Valley High School.
So far, 15 local eighth grade teachers have indicated they want to be involved, but the group needs more 12th grade teachers — and, of course, sponsors.
California’s portion of this year’s federal stipend is only around $192,000, Richmond said.
Centennial High School educator Joseph Biron, who teaches world history, U.S. history and government classes, praised the Madison project highly and urged others to join.
“It’s a great program. I know that the training I attended really helped me with my content knowledge and really helped my teaching,” Biron said. “Deepening your own knowledge helps you not only teach students but it helps you keep your passion for the subject alive.”
Liberty High School’s Eric Ball, who teaches honors government and world history, said the project’s impact on students is considerable.
“I’ve had one who became a lobbyist. I had another one who became president of the Young Republicans at the university she was at,” Ball said. “We’re educating the next generation of students who are going to be in charge of our democracy.”