Teddi K. Valeski

Teaching Blog and Portfolio

Closing the Achievement Gap – The Hidden Power of Character


Reading news from the Economist, I found this article posted today that highly sparked my interests. This article depicts new research on closing the achievement gap. The power of persistence and curiosity can be better predictive measures of student success than cognitive skills. How do we teach this mindset to students and illustrate the correlation between hard work and destiny? This article gives some insight on a new way to look at measuring student success, along with the book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” by Paul Tough.

Link to article

Link to book on Amazon

World War I, Why It is Forgotten, and How to Make it Relevant To Students Today


Think About a Great War that United States was Involved with…

I am assuming World War II, as Nazi symbols and epic battles in the Pacific came to mind first. World War II was an unique, fascinating but violent and gruesome war that we all love learning about (for the most part). What about the first World War, the Great War?

I have noticed that most students, and being a recent college student myself,  often forget about World War I. It is not that I forget that It happened… I simply known more about World War II and I am more fascinated with it, and I believe most students feel the same way after talking to them and observing this in class.

I feel that students do not find World War I as interesting, because it is harder to relate to. Students often replace it in their minds, like it is an older edition textbook, and World War II is the newer edition that provides colors and photos, unlike the older edition, that World War I is in greyscale and has long boring texts.

In order to fully understand World War II, World War I must be understood. World War I was not just a lead up to World War II however, it is important in its own right, very important.

The first thing, was to make it matter, relate it to the students lives, without comparing it too much to World War II.

Making World War I Relevant and Exciting for Students:

1. Relate it to today, to their lives to what is going on around them and what they see in the news.

New York Times Scholastic Upfront is a news magazine for high school students, and they published an article in May 2009 on how World War I matters today. I read many articles about this, but this is a simple version on where you can find some sources on why exactly World War I matters today and how it stiff affects the World. (Link to article)

2. Simulations and Games

I had the opportunity to teach World War I to 9th graders for a week during my Pre-Student Teaching II experience.

My host teacher wanted me to create a lesson for 9th graders on just the 14 Points. The treaties after World War I and the final Treaty of Versailles is critical to understand the future conflicts in Europe and the changes that occurred from it. I wanted to make a lesson that the students could relate to and have them be put in the European countries shoes, and especially on the after affect of the war with Wilson’s 14 Points as a base.

14 Points Lesson Plan

Mock Negotiation with the “Big Four”

I created a mock negotiation between the countries of Great Britain, France, Italy , and the United States. I pretended I was President Wilson, going to the other Allies with my proposal on what to do in Europe. I had the class into three groups, each represented on of the the Big Four, (not US, as I was the US in this case). They each had a goal sheet that stated their goals for the final treaty of WWI, and what they feel about the different countries in Europe, and what they had been through.

The students seemed to have fun with it, and they started to make connections to what the country felt, why they felt that way about the war, what problems they were concerned about after the war ended, and how Wilson’s 14 Points became the base of the treaty, but they didn’t agree with it because they wanted to punish Germany and how that actually caused future problems, and one of the causes of World War II.


Library of Congress for Teachers


Learn how to use primary sources effectively in the classroom.

The Library of Congress offers a Primary Sources program that provides primary source-based staff development to teachers across the country.

Teachers can even earn a certificate of completion after completing this program. The Library uses self-paced interactive teaching modules. Each module is approximately one hour to complete.

Library of Congress – Website  URL for Teachers

Historical “Scene Investigation” …Bringing Primary Sources Alive in the Classroom


Historical Scene Investigation Website

This is a good site for information on how to use primary sources in the classroom, and how to make students conduct research like real historians. This method of using primary sources can make learning history fun!


How Ancestry.com can Bring History Alive


November, 2011:

How Students can Learn from using Ancestry.com 

The Addicting Nature of Ancestry.com…

This month I am devoting all of my time on Ancestry.com. I was able to take a liberal studies course this summer on family genealogy and I am still hooked! If anyone is interested in their family history, or in history in general I would recommend trying out this website. There is a ton of information on here, from census data (in which you can view that actual document), photos, family trees, stories, and so much more. This website has a price, but it is definitely worth it.

The events that  students learned in class can come alive for the students as It did for me and thousands of others. What better way to relate history to the students than placing history in the context of their lives, and in their families. If students know the names of their grandparents, they can find out the rest by using this incredible site. They can find actual documents of census records, draft records, photographs, and more. Students will be able to see these primary sources first hand, be able to relate to it and it forever leave a mark on them. Ancestry.com has United States records and World records, so first generation Americans will be able to use the site and find just as many records.

The downside is that not all students know about their family history. Also, the cost of the program, and privacy rights with the students is also a concern.

Regardless, history for the students will come alive for them, they will be able to place themselves and their family in the events that they learned.


Example of my Research and How American History Came Alive Before my Eyes.

 Native American Genealogical Research – The Trail of Tears

I am currently using Ancestry.com and other genealogical methods to prove the Cherokee in my family. I did not realize but a lot goes into researching Native American family members! I was told that there is Cherokee on my mother’s side of the family…and it was seen in my Grandma (she looked Native American). However, I can’t just base the proof on word of mouth or on looks, I mean everyone is different and sometimes false memories may be passed down. I had no information on this alleged Cherokee member in my family tree..but by using Ancestry.com I was able to find out her name and find a photo of her! It is complicated because I cannot necessarily prove it based on a picture and a name.

Cherokee Ancestry: Where Do I Begin?

How do you prove that you have a Cherokee ancestor? Well, a lot goes into it. You do not only have to know how to research genealogy, but you have to know your history.  The Cherokee’s were not included in the census date (in large quantities) until 1817 and it only included some of the Cherokee Tribes. There were many Census records taken for Cherokee’s all that occurred between 1817-1914. These Census’s are called rolls and they do not necessarily represent the whole Cherokee population. Some of the data for the rolls were only taken in certain areas. There are Western Rolls, Eastern Rolls, Rolls from the Trail of Tears…etc. Here is a list of them, the rolls official names, and when the date was collected: http://www.allthingscherokee.com/articles_gene_070101.html

However, If you want to be admitted to the Cherokee Nation the Dawes Rolls must be used. There is a database on the Dawes Rolls and books as well.

This is When History Plays a Big Role…

Okay, so history bluffs you will enjoy the next stage in conducting Cherokee research. You will be able to use investigating skills and history all in one. It’s exciting and very fun! Those that are not into history, well it is still a lot of fun! You will be able to relate your ancestors to American history. The events that you learned in history class in high school will come alive for you, I guarantee it.  It will have a greater meaning knowing that your ancestors were part of history…and you get to see proof!

The Power of Place

First things first, where did your ancestors originate from? Ask your family members or research their names on Ancestry.com. Census data will appear and so will their location. If you think that they might of been Cherokee, you have to first know where the Cherokee’s lived and when. They were relocated different times in history.


Lesson Plan: “Understanding America’s War on Terror”


Contemporary Issues:

Terrorism: Understanding America’s War on Terror

I presented this lesson to 9th, 10th, and 11th graders during my Pre-Student Teaching I experience in 2010.  The students were in different classes, ranging from World History, Civics, and US History. I adapted this lesson to reach the needs of all three classes and students levels in each class. The activity and set-up of the lesson is shown in the lesson plan. The students seemed to be very interested in this topic and had many questions as well as participated greatly in the class activity and discussion.




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