ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - A seventh-grade U.S. History teacher at St. Cloud’s South Junior High will pick up a statewide award this weekend.

Autumn Heitzman is the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies 2024 Middle School Teacher of the Year.

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In accepting the award, Heitzman says her students inspire her to keep finding ways to connect history to her students.

I think with middle school specifically, you have to be willing to show humility. I tried to essentially make a theater performance out of my lessons every day. I'm not afraid to make myself look silly. I have danced, I have sung, I have acted I have drawn … poorly. I have found crazy YouTube videos to get their attention. And I tried to create my curriculum as much as possible to increase their desire to learn. And when I'm able to hook them in with those kinds of ideas, that's when I can give more of those traditional days.

Heitzman says she tries to make every era of history interesting, she finds her seventh graders generally struggle with the beginnings of our country.

Students really struggle looking at outdated words in the Constitution, and Bill of Rights, and how those can actually apply to our lives. I hate to say it, but when we do get to that Mexican-American War, students aren't too interested in westward expansion and how we got land. So I've learned that in the pieces that kids may find boring, I hope to find juicy information to at least help us get through that boring unit.

The award will be presented this weekend during the MCSS annual convention, titled “The Power of Perspective”.

Attendees will gather at the Minnesota History Center for keynote speeches, networking, and dozens of sessions ranging from teaching the Korean War to the use of historical items and artifacts in the classroom.



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