“It was a huge surprise and such a huge honor. Teachers work so hard to be the best they can be for their students every day, and some days are incredibly hard. To be nominated was an honor in and of itself. To win was next level,” Keighan said.
Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and U.S. Territories.
Keighan said she thinks she was nominated for the award because of the effort that she puts into her teaching every day.
“I'd like to think that I was nominated because the families of my students see the efforts I put into each lesson and activity about the past being relevant in today's society,” Keighan said. “I'd like to think I was selected because I have spent the better part of 10 years working at being the best teacher I can be - and the selection panel recognized these efforts as well.”
Keighan has some advice for those who would like to teach history.
“I would suggest to any aspiring teacher to remember why they chose to become teachers in the first place. My ability to be a good teacher came out of my goal to have good and positive relationships with all of my students. Being able to communicate with students and their families and remembering that the kids in front of you will only learn from you if they trust you are the cornerstones by which I've developed my skills as a teacher over the last few years.”
Keighan said Castleton was instrumental in her success as a teacher and helped to fuel her love of learning.
“Castleton created a space for me where I was encouraged to be vulnerable and to ask hard questions. It was a place where I could be wrong and completely out in left field and yet I could learn and grow and not feel like I was a failure because I had made mistakes or errors along the way,” Keighan said. “My undergrad experience reminded me how exciting learning could be. My graduate experience showed me that learning is not finite, that there is always something new to consider. When I became a part-time instructor, I felt like I was able to give back to this community that had given so much to me.”
Teaching history can also provide valuable lessons. Keighan says we are better able to understand ourselves and the experiences and perceptions of others through studying history.
“One of my 8th graders shared this thought with me a few years ago. We learned from yesterday, we hope for tomorrow, but we should value today--that's why it's called the present,” Keighan said.
Dr. Scott Roper, professor of History, Geography, Economics, Politics was particularly influential in Keighan’s education and career choice. She suggests that anyone with the opportunity should take a course with Dr. Roper.
“His integrity, his enthusiasm for geography and geographic education, and the passion he has for teaching and learning were the inspirations from which I was able to build my career as an educator,” Keighan said.
“Castleton has been such a huge part of my life for the last 10 years. The connections I've made with my professors have lasted longer than I ever would have expected and I'm sure that they feel the same way sometimes.”