Beginning in 2021, the Jack Miller Center launched a new “Excellence in Civic Education Award” to annually recognize one K-12 teacher and one professor for extraordinary teaching and student engagement.
The results of teaching efforts can be difficult to quantify, and we want to recognize the important work of engaging, educating, and inspiring students while fostering civil discourse and critical thinking.
JMC believes that work in the classroom and with students is critically important for America’s future. Our self-governing nation is dependent upon an informed and engaged citizenry if we are to preserve our constitutional democracy.
Knowledge of America’s institutional structures is only the beginning of civic learning. We believe every generation of citizens needs to be introduced to the the history and ideas behind the American founding and how to make connections to contemporary issues.
To that end, we asked educators to submit their stories of how they have engaged students in learning about America and their roles as citizens.
The inaugural K-12 civics award went to Mr. Enrico Pucci, an inspiring teacher who teaches 8th grade American History, Civic Engagement, and Speech at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Mr. Pucci describes his creative and strategic teaching process of combating growing division and disillusion by coalescing around the Constitution’s powerful phrase “to form a more perfect Union.”
Always beginning his Civics class with a review the of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, he pulls out the core ideals of the United States – Equality, Liberty, and Justice. Mr. Pucci explained that “by emphasizing the process of “perfecting” our nation, I helped my students see that our founding ideals are dynamic, living concepts, and that it is our civic duty to participate in the ongoing process of their ‘perfection.’”
The inaugural college civics award went to Dr. Rita Koganzon, an assistant professor of politics at the University of Virginia and associate director of the University’s Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy. Rita shows exemplary dedication to civics education in all she does at UVA, awakening students to the overwhelming impact the Constitution has had on American citizens and our ethos. Rita particularly enjoys “helping students connect the texts to their own subtle but significant experiences of American citizenship,” and witnessing “an understanding of the US as a constitutional regime dawn on them.”
Through the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy, a JMC partner program dedicated to the study of the American Founding, Rita has engaged her students in learning about American political theory through regular classes, fellowships, and evening reading groups, while also connecting them with further summer programming and internships to foster their interest in America’s founding ideals.
Both Rita and Enrico demonstrated creativity in encouraging their students to think about America’s Constitution and founding principles in new ways. In particular, Rita helps her students consider the Constitution’s effect on forming Americans’ “constitutional souls.” Enrico succeeds in instilling in his students the core founding ideals of equality, liberty, and justice, as well as a sense of civic duty.
The winners each received a $1,000 prize.