Timothy Edwards teacher named CT History Day Teacher of the Year

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., May. 9, 2013
Timothy Edward students who attended Connecticut History Day (l-r) Jason Rickenbacher, Preston Isom, Ryan Brown, Samantha Donovan and Lindsey Hurd stand with David Anderson, EXCEL teacher and this year's Teacher of the Year for the junior division. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Every year, students from across the state gather for Connecticut History Day. All 50 states celebrate History Day, when students compete in 14 categories in which they submit presentations on historical topics, generally 20 years or older. For the students representing Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor, this was a particularly special year.

David Anderson is the coordinator for EXCEL, which is the Gifted and Talented Program at Timothy Edwards, and has been the head coach for the school's CHD team for 11 years. This year, he was selected as the Connecticut History Day Teacher of the Year for the junior high division.

The recognition honors an educator who is deeply committed to the annual event. "I'm very dedicated to History Day. I believe in its importance," Anderson said.

The honor is all the more appropriate, as Timothy Edwards is a well-known heavyweight at CHD. "At the regional competition, the students that I've coached have set records – this year, we're the only team to sweep two categories, taking first, second and third," Anderson said. From 2007 to 2011, Timothy Edwards took more than 50 percent of all the medals that were awarded to students from area towns.

Timothy Edwards students have covered a wide range of topics over the years, such as the Hartford circus fire and the Engima cypher machine used during World War II. And on a regular basis, Anderson will discover that the story of the student conducting research for the project turns out to be as remarkable as the topics themselves.

One project this year was a website entitled "Henry Ford: Innovator of the Assembly Line," by Jason Rickenbacher. "That was an amazing story because that boy sent an e-mail to Henry Ford's great-great-grandson, and William 'Bill' Ford sent back a lengthy e-mail, and then another. They were going back and forth for a month. Then Bill, who is the CEO of Ford Worldwide, sent a personalized book from the '80s to Jason."

The story is reminiscent of a past project done by Megha Rao entitled "Steve Jobs: Take a Gigabyte Out of the Apple." To research the project, Rao corresponded with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and even interviewed him.

Anderson shared "the most emotional story of the year." One boy, Preston Isom, learned that his great-grandfather, whom he was named after, was a founder of the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. "His parents flew him out to Utah to meet him last November," said Anderson. "He interviewed him – audio, video, spent three days together. Preston flew back, and the gentleman died in February."

"That was the heartbreaking story of the year," Anderson said. "Preston said, 'I never would have met him if it wasn't for Connecticut History Day.'"

Anderson was nominated for Teacher of the Year by Ryan Jones, regional Connecticut History Day director of Manchester. He will now represent Connecticut for the National History Day Teacher of the Year, which will be announced June 13.

"I was ecstatic. It was one of many pinnacles and highlights of my teaching career," he said. To be considered for CHD Teacher of the Year, testimonials had to be submitted. The one Anderson is most proud of comes from a past Timothy Edwards student, now a senior in high school, who said,  "I don't think Mr. Anderson will ever know how much that experience has shaped and changed my life."

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