History teacher of the year provides escape from boredom for students
Oct 02, 2018 12:22PM
By Jana Klopsch
Megan Osborn gets students moving by asking them to answer questions with physical poses. (Jet Burnham\City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Megan Osborn, recently named Utah’s 2018 Gilder Lerhman History Teacher of the Year, provides an escape from boredom for her students.
“I try and get them out of their seats and doing something—for the movement but also just to break up the day—there’s a lot of sitting in school so anything to get them up and moving and interacting is good,” said Osborn.
Osborn teaches Utah History at Sunset Ridge Middle School where she created an Escape Room activity based on a train robbery. Students became Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, working together to solve a series of clues that would help them escape with their loot. Students deciphered messages written in Morse code, Navajo Code and the Deseret Alphabet—all topics they’d discussed in Utah history.
Osborn’s lessons and assignments are an escape from the norm. There are few worksheets and lectures but plenty of creativity, coloring and movement.
Osborn also uses untraditional approaches to assess students’ knowledge. For example, pop quizzes get physical when she asks students to show their answer by striking a pose that represents their answer choice.
Osborn often escapes the classroom and heads to the auditorium where stations are spread out, providing games and activities for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Other activities allow students to escape to a time period where they become Settlers and Native Americans bargaining for fair trades.
Now in her fifth year of teaching, Osborn first discovered her love of history from the engaging instructors she had at Utah State University.
Even a teacher can get bored if the class is just lectures and testing, she believes, so she strives to make learning interesting for herself as well as for her students.
“She likes to do projects instead of just do worksheets and just sit there,” said seventh-grader Jessalee Sterzer.
Through creative projects, students demonstrate their knowledge of Utah history. They create a comic strip about the Cold War, a brochure of Utah industry, a map of settlements, a set of famous mountain men action figures and a superhero with superpowers associated with the materials, geography and industries found in Utah.
Students enjoy the unique assignments.
“I think it’s better because you’re having fun while you’re actually learning, instead of doing a boring essay,” said Mia Robles.
Students say Osborn explains topics in a way that makes sense to them.
“My favorite thing about teaching is when I can relate it to kids, when they can have those ‘ah-ha’ moments of ‘this make sense to me’ or ‘this applies to me,’” said Osborn.
Last year, Osborne’s students explored the topic of homelessness in Utah, currently still a hot topic. They researched the issue, determined a solution and sent a policy proposal to the government officials they thought could carry it out.
West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding received so many letters from Sunset Ridge students, he arranged to meet with them and bring experts to speak with them.
Abbie Price, who wrote a proposal to expand public transportation, was impressed that the mayor would take the time to talk with students about their proposals.
“He said he read all of them,” she said. “And he brought some people to help us understand more what the homeless people are going through.”
Osborn loves to see her students realize the impact history has on their lives.
“That’s what I love about teaching state history,” she said. “They can see history happened here—things that were important happened in Utah. I like when they can make those connections.”
Osborn serves on the Utah Council for the Social Studies with district curriculum specialist Pam Su’a, who nominated her for the award.
“She uses methods that are hands-on, student-centered and fun,” said Su’a. “She does things out of the norm that help kids find their niche in life.”
She believes Osborn deserves the title of History Teacher of the Year because she is the kind of teacher whose students come out of her class with a love for history.