More than 200 local educators are on the other side of the desk this week as they learn about dozens of educational institutions hosting activities during San Antonio’s 300th anniversary in 2018.
Once the five-day summit at the University of Texas at San Antonio‘s downtown campus is complete on Friday, organizers hope they will become “Teacher Ambassadors” of the Tricentennial and spread the word about field trip, lecture, and curriculum opportunities that will help give children a deeper understanding of San Antonio’s history and culture.
The San Antonio Tricentennial Summer Institute for Educators is the first of many events that will focus on the Education and History component of the Tricentennial.
“Our first objective is to compile as many resources in the city as possible,” said Christian Clark, Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) senior program coordinator and spokesman. “That’s field trip opportunities, that’s collections, primary and secondary source documents, artifacts … and anyone who has classroom activities online. We want to compile that as a citywide resource for teachers.
“We’re kind of charging them with the responsibility of sharing this with other teachers and to incorporate this into their lesson plans for their students.”
“We’re using it to send them notifications and to adjust their schedules [for field trips and exhibits],” he said. “But they’re also using it to connect to each other.”
The app includes contact information for teachers who want to register as teacher ambassadors and will include information about coming workshops and networking events.
UTSA’s ITC hosts the educator summit every year, but by partnering with SA300 and Toyota this one is much larger, Clark said. Representatives from arts and cultural institutions such as San Antonio Museum of Art, McNay Art Museum, Witte Museum, San Antonio Zoo, ITC, and others pitched their forthcoming programming for the year that has been tailored for the Tricentennial.
Researchers and historians have been working for more than one year on the exhibit at the Witte, 300 Years of San Antonio History: Confluence and Culture. A $1.1 million grant from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation to the Tricentennial in January solidified plans for the exhibit that aims to answer key questions about San Antonio for residents and visitors alike. Such questions include: “How did the establishment of the Spanish-colonial Missions influence the cultural and economic development of the city?” or “How did military conflicts define its timeline?”
Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation, GIS mapping software company Esri, contemporary art gallery Artpace, San Antonio River Authority, BiblioTech, Geekdom, and San Antonio Public Library also hosted keynotes and breakout sessions.
Though there is not a fully developed Tricentennial curriculum, one could be developed for use during 2018 or beyond.
“This is the first event in our commemorative efforts that will leave a lasting legacy on these educators and thousands of students in San Antonio and Bexar County,” said San Antonio Tricentennial Commission President Robert Thrailkill. “This initiative reflects the Tricentennial Commission’s guiding principle to educate and celebrate our shared history and further our legacy.”
Throughout the week, educators have been touring various museums, Missions, playscapes, and learning facilities including the Holocaust Museum.
“I didn’t even know we had a Holocaust Museum,” said Jo Donachie, a sixth grade teacher at Armando Leal Jr. Middle School. “Since I’m not from San Antonio … this [summit] has been helpful to find out new things to share with my students.”
Throughout the week, teachers will also tour UT Health San Antonio, Brooks, KLRN, and Fort Sam Houston. In addition to educational opportunities, the summit also exposed several funding opportunities for schools with tighter budgets – a huge help for Title I schools, Donachie said.
“We get to instill [in students] a sense of pride in their city,” she said, as many children rarely get to venture outside of their neighborhoods or personal schedules.
Patricia Seidlitz, who teaches sixth grade at Zachry Middle School, met Donachie while they attended the breakout session on the San Antonio Museum of Art’s 2018 exhibit Circa 1718: Mexican Art During San Antonio’s First Century.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with other teachers and stay in touch,” Seidlitz said, accessing the full list of participants on the Teacher Ambassadors app.
Teachers can receive continuing education credits for attending the summit.
“At the core of this week is learning about our diverse community, how that impacts San Antonio today, and how we can learn from our history to prepare for the future,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg during welcome remarks on Monday. “After this week, these teacher ambassadors, representing school districts in San Antonio and Bexar County, will have the tremendous opportunity to share what they have learned at this Tricentennial Summer Institute to educate our students and fellow teachers about the 300 years of San Antonio’s history.”