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The 2010 National History Teacher of the Year

by Dr. Don DeKeyser

December 02, 2010

Wow! What happened in Washington D.C.? Many of you have been reading about or watching Nathan McAlister's accomplishments in the news media. As an American history and Kansas history teacher at RVMS, he has been creating some notable history" for himself and for his students. One achievement has been the passing of the recent Kansas legislation, through the efforts of last year's 7th grade students, to memorialize the Lane Freedom Trail on Highway 75; another is his more recent accomplishment of being named the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehram Institute of American History. Before receiving this distinction, Nathan was selected from a cast of 750 history teachers (state awardees and other nominees) from across the United States. He is the seventh history teacher in the history of this nation to receive this impressive national award and an acclaim from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 

    On Oct. 12th, Nathan McAlister and others from Royal Valley were flown to Washington D.C. to attend this prestigious ceremony. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History provided the plane tickets (to and from D.C.) and provided the lodging for all of the following individuals so each could attend the awards ceremony: Nathan and his wife (Kim), their two children, Ms. Wold (who nominated Nathan), two sets of parents with their two students, and the RVMS principal. Nathan's mother, his stepfather, his grand-mother also attended the ceremony in Washington D.C.. 

    On Oct. 13th at approximately 4:15 p.m., the recognition ceremony was held in the School Without Walls in Washington D.C., a flagship school for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Eight presenters were seated on the stage; the speakers were carefully placed with their names on the seats of chairs on the stage. Nathan was seated directly by the honorable US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

    The recognition ceremony began with remarks by James Basker, the President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. His introductory remakrs and initial presentation were followed by presentations by two students from the School Without Walls. The first student simply presented the Pledge of Allegiance, and the second student superbly sang the National Anthem.

    Libby O'Connell from the History Channel gave her remarks and a commentary on Nathan's abilities and accomplishments. Then, two RV students,  Kassidy Dahl and Logan Bausch, gave well-prepared tributes to Nathan's instructional abilities, in and out of class-room. Kassidy Dahl is currently an 8th grade student at RVMS, and Logan Bausch is a former RVMS student and is currently a junior, attending RVHS.

    Nathan was then called upon to speak. He spoke of his wife's and family's support and tolerance with his professional interests and pursuits in the study of history. He recognized the support of the RVMS staff and personnel. He acknowledged the staff and work of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the History Channel.  He reminded the audience of the size of Mayetta and some of his work at RVMS. He related some of his philosophy of teaching and the importance of history in the school curriculum. He explained the prior events and the work of last year's seventh grade class with passing the Kansas legislation on the Lane Freedom Trail. Nathan eloquently closed with the remark, "History teaches everything, including the future." (ref. Lamartine)

    The 2010 National History Teacher of the Year award was presented to Nathan by James Basker along with some assistance from Kassidy Dahl and Logan Bausch. James Basker also presented Nathan with a check for the amount of $10,00. Following the presentation of Nathan's award, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave warm congratulatory remarks to Nathan; she commented on his demonstrated abilities. Justice O'Connor's easy manner, poised presence, and willingness to visit Nathan and his family were quite impressive. A reception followed the closing remarks by James Basker.

    After the close of the ceremony, it was noted that Nathan was carrying the sign from the chair that had Justice O'Connor's name on it. Someone asked, "What are you doing with that?" Nathan responded, "She sat on it! It's a piece of history." (primary document) Thus, we come to the tail end of his history lesson.

    Congratulations, Nathan McAlister, on being named the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year and being recognized for your excellence in teaching history at RV! You have made the Royal Valley School District very proud! Now, Nathan, keep up your good work!

    P.S. We thank the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for everything that they graciously provided, the willingness to incur the costs for attending parties from Royal Valley, and the hospitality that was shown to all of the attendees throughout their visit at Washington D.C.

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