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Virginia History Teacher of the Year shares credit

A Lakeland High School teacher was named 2020 Virginia History Teacher of the Year.

India Meissel has taught history at Lakeland High School for 30 of her 34 years of teaching. According to Meissel, this is the highest award a history teacher can receive.

“I was online one morning, and I got an email from Gilder Lehrman that said congrats,” said Meissel. “I sat there and looked at it and looked at it. I was and still am in shock.”

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has held the History Teacher of the Year awards for the past 25 years. This institute honors history teachers K-12 in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and U.S. territories.

“Two amazing teachers nominated me in December and January,” said Meissel. “If you chose to accept the nomination, you have to put together an extensive portfolio.”

In this portfolio, Meissel included a lesson she did with her students that interviewed veterans. She put together pages and pictures from the interviews featuring the primary sources.

“It is about firsthand accounts,” said Meissel. “It is all about teaching lessons through documents and the people who lived it. That firsthand account is what Gilder Lehrman is all about.”

Meissel engages her students with the past as they dig into sources, artifacts, historic sites, and analysis. The community involvement of her former students reflects the emphasis she puts on civic engagement in her classes. They are active in their community as local government officials, business owners and community organization leaders.

“I do not do this alone,” said Meissel. “I work with an amazing collection of educators that are a joy to work with. We push each other to be better. At 34 years of teaching, I could just coast, but they won’t let me. This award is as much recognition to them as it is to me.”