Woodland High School Social Studies Teacher Katie Klaus earned the prestigious James Madison Fellowship Award, America’s most prestigious award in constitutional history and government for secondary teachers. Each year, the James Madison Foundation selects one fellow from each state with Klaus being selected as the 2016 Washington State Fellow, earning an award of $24,000 to help pay for her graduate studies.
To be considered, applicants must be teachers of American History and Government at the secondary school level with an application process which reviews each teacher’s academic history, extracurricular activities, and the teacher’s potential to be successful in their graduate degree program along with teachers submitting a constitutional essay as well as letters of recommendation. A panel of independent assessors chooses which candidates they want to select as fellows for each year.
Klaus chose to teach in order to make a difference in the lives of children. “I wanted to become a teacher to help make a positive difference in the lives of students,” said Klaus. “Most people can look back at their high school career and identify a teacher who really inspired or influenced them, and I want to be that type of teacher.”
Klaus intends to earn her Master of Arts degree in American History and Government and is currently looking at several different schools to pursue her graduate studies. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is seeing students realize their own potential,” she said. “If a student has been struggling to understand a difficult concept and then finally understands the material, there is a spark of excitement that comes from that; I enjoy these kinds of positive interactions that develop between students and teachers.”
As part of being selected for the James Madison Fellowship, Klaus will attend their summer institute, a month-long course held at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. The course, entitled “The Foundations of American Constitutionalism” features trips to sites associated with the Constitution of the United State in and around Washington D.C. including Mount Vernon, Montepelier, Monticello, and the Arlington Cemetery. Participants also have a private meeting with a sitting Supreme Court Justice. “As a history teacher, I can help students develop the skills they will need to be contributing members of the democratic process,” said Klaus.
Klaus is the second social studies teacher at Woodland High School to be selected for this prestigious award with Sharon Conditt earning the award in 2009. Following receiving the award, Conditt received a Master of Arts in History from Washington State University in 2012 with focuses on U.S. History, Women’s History, and Constitutional Law. “The James Madison Foundation was created to help give teachers resources and educational opportunities so that they may help students better know, understand, and experience the ideas that built our nation,” explained Conditt. “The selected teachers become experts in American Constitutionalism, and are then expected to share that knowledge and experience to increase students’ agency in civic responsibility.”
Conditt greatly values the month-long course she attended at Georgetown in 2010. “I spent hundreds of hours reading related materials including founding documents for the 13 colonies; papers on Republicanism and Democracy; all of the notes on the Constitutional Convention; and all of the Federalist and Antifederalist Papers,” she remembers. “We heard the Supreme Court decide five cases, met with justices, and had a private meeting with now-Senator Majority Whip John Cornyn; it was truly the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The James Madison Memorial Foundation offers the $24,000 James Madison Fellowships to individuals desiring to become outstanding teachers of the American Constitution at the secondary school level. You can learn more about the James Madison Memorial Foundation from their website: www.jamesmadison.gov.