TeacherReady Alumna and Alabama’s Top History Teacher Chosen as a National Geographic Elite Educator
Photo: National Geographic
Tuscaloosa Academy teacher Jaclyn Foster is about to embark on a journey that teachers all over the world often dream about. Foster was recently chosen for the 2021 Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship from the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions. She joins a fellowship of only 50 other educators chosen to study at a remote location for up to three weeks. According to National Geographic, locations may include the high Arctic, southeast Alaska, Central America, Antarctica or the Galápagos Islands. Teachers who participate in the fellowship also serve as ambassadors to other National Geographic teachers for two years.
The whole point is to help foster a love for learning about our planet by participating in hands-on field experiences that we can bring back to our classroom. — Jaclyn Foster, Tuscaloosa Academy Teacher Wins National Geographic Fellowship
National Geographic says that the teachers will be accompanied by expedition teams that include marine biologists, geologists, historians, scientists, undersea specialists and National Geographic photographers.
Foster became a National Geographic teacher in 2017 while teaching in Virginia. While she was surprised to be selected, she was honored to be chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jaclyn said that the Grosvenor teacher fellowship is “kind of like winning the lottery for educators because so many people apply for it”.
Jaclyn wants to use this rare opportunity to inspire and impact her students. “It is clearly the professional development opportunity of a lifetime. You know we read about stuff [in] like National Geographic magazines and you see stuff on television, but to be able to experience it… that really gets our students’ attention,” Foster said. “It’s one thing reading it, it’s another thing if your teacher is telling you, like how they experienced it.”
While the program has not yet assigned destinations, Jaclyn works with her students to develop research questions she can investigate while on her trip. “I go off what my students are interested in. I want them to be excited about learning. So we’re just going through different topics we’re interested in for different areas that I could possibly be going to.”
Foster told her students when she applied for the fellowship and says they all screamed in excitement when she got the news. She hopes she will have opportunities to teach her class from the field. “I would be doing a lot of the lessons, hopefully, from the expedition ship,” she said. “I want to be able to get some live videos and pull activities for them to do so they’re part of my journey.”
2021 Alabama History Teacher of the Year
Foster was recently named the 2021 Alabama History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Foster has worked in education for 18 years and currently teaches middle school civics, U.S. history and human geography.
In 2021, a record 8,510 teachers were nominated for the History Teacher of the Year Award. This award seeks to highlight the importance of history education by honoring exceptional K-12 American history teachers. The organization presenting the award said Jaclyn’s passion for history and technology have been combined in her classroom and her students have reaped the benefits.
She brings history alive in her classroom by creating engaging and innovative projects for her students including inserting them into historical pictures they are studying using green screen technology, creating music videos about the Bill of Rights, analyzing and solving real-world issues in their community through service-learning projects, being involved in a real-life immigration process, connecting her students to numerous experts in the field and chaperoning her students on an annual field trip to Washington, D.C.,” the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History said. “When students leave her classroom they have not only learned valuable information, they have become engaged and informed citizens.”
Foster is grateful for the skills she learned studying for her certification. “TeacherReady has helped me in my career by preparing me to earn the credentials I needed to teach a subject I am passionate about, giving me the skills and confidence I needed to be successful in the classroom and showing me how to amplify student voice.”