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For Immediate Release
September 26, 2006

Urbana teacher named Illinois History Teacher of the Year

Marcella (Marcy) Vancil, a teacher at Flossie Wiley Elementary School in Urbana, Illinois, is this year’s “Illinois History Teacher of the Year,” sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Preserve America.

Inaugurated in 2004, the National History Teacher of the Year Award is designed to promote and celebrate the teaching of American history in classrooms across the United States. It honors one exceptional K-12 teacher of American history from each state and U.S. territory. The selection of the state winner is based upon several criteria, including experience in teaching American history for at least three years; a deep career commitment to teaching American history; evidence of creativity and imagination in the classroom; and close attention to documents. “This award gives us the chance to recognize great history teachers across the country,” said Lesley Herrmann, Executive Director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “It puts exceptional educators front and center.”

Vancil has been teaching for 32 years (kindergarten through 4th grade) and has taught at Wiley School for 16 years. Her past awards include being named to the 2005 All-USA Teacher Team by USA Today, a Disney Teacher of The Year (1994), and a finalist for Illinois Teacher Of The Year by the Illinois State Board of Education (2003). She is also a National Board Certified Teacher.

“Marcy Vancil is the kind of teacher who truly enjoys what she does in the classroom each day and has brought history to life for many, many students through the years,” said John Craig of the Illinois State Board of Education, who participated in the selection process on behalf of ISBE.

Vancil earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary/early childhood education from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, completed her student teaching assignment in Scotland, earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and achieved National Board Certification in 1998.

Vancil has been the primary subject of eight doctoral theses and is featured in several professional books. Since 1996, she has been collecting data on how young children construct understandings of history and how to deepen these understandings. She immerses students in yearlong thematic units of early America, incorporating academic subjects, primary documents, artifacts, family stories and first person interpretation. This year started with students turning the classroom into a time machine to travel to early America, where they will portray characters from the Mayflower passenger list. They will eat hardtack and dried beef on the voyage, become apprentices in Colonial Williamsburg, as well as research and write journals telling history from a first-person perspective.

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