FRANKTON, Ind. — Teacher Kevin M. Cline pulled up a web page with biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton on a classroom screen as his senior-level government students called up the same on their Chromebooks.
After explaining how Jefferson was born wealthy in Virginia and Hamilton was born poor in the Caribbean, Cline told students their assignment was to distill those differences into three sentences each.
“This is not textbook stuff. This is stuff I have written, which I think you will agree is much easier to read than 1786 English,” the social studies teacher and department chair at Frankton Jr.-Sr. High School told the class.
That personal touch is one reason Cline last week was named 2016 National History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Cline will receive $10,000 and attend a ceremony in his honor on Oct. 24 with two students and their parents at the Yale Club in New York.
Cline was told in March that he had been nominated for the honor. He completed a portfolio that included lesson and project plans and his philosophy on teaching. In June, Cline was notified that he was named Indiana’s History Teacher of the Year and would be eligible for the national competition.
“Really and truly, I didn’t think there was a chance of winning anything,” he said. “I feel like I’m still waiting for my feet to touch the ground.”
A native of Marion, 35-year-old Cline said he had an interest in history and politics as long as he can remember. He handed out candy and Post-It notes at the polls in 1988 and dressed as President George H.W. Bush for Halloween in 1989.
“I was always a proud history nerd. I can’t imagine teaching anything else. It’s got the best heroes and the best villains,” he said.
Though he started out as a broadcasting major at Ball State University, it was his community service as a tutor with the Motivator of Minds program that inspired Cline to switch his major to secondary education.
“There’s something addicting to the light bulb moments. I just really enjoyed that kind of impact I had,” he said while sitting in his classroom. As he spoke, he was surrounded by gubernatorial and presidential campaign signs. There was also a Led Zeppelin poster on the wall and flags of different nations on the ceiling.
The father of two boys, ages 8 and 3, said he feels an enormous responsibility for the education of his students because they are the most precious things to their parents.
“I think that mentality was strengthened when they were born. I want to be the teacher I want my own sons to have,” he said.
Almost everyone attributes Cline’s expertise as a teacher to his use of technology, including sending Twitter questions to students for extra credit. But he also knows how to make lessons relevant with current events, generating discussions about a Supreme Court justice nominated by President Barack Obama or recent athletes refusing to stand for the National Anthem.
Principal Greg Granger said it’s Cline’s use of technology that sets him apart. Unlike many teachers, he said, Cline uses technology for day-to-day assignments and to give students access to primary documents and university specialists in the areas he is teaching.
“I think Kevin is student-friendly. I think he’s very engaging and entertaining and very passionate about his content area,” he said.
Senior Madison Bishop, 18, is taking Cline’s advanced placement government class. But it was as a member of history club, which Cline sponsors, that she met the popular teacher.
“It’s like he kind of changed me in a way because he makes kids feel so important,” she said.
A second-generation teacher, Kevin M. Cline also is the only teacher in Madison County named a Heritage Educator by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.
Recognized in honor of Indiana’s bicentennial, heritage educators come from families of educators.
His father, Mike Cline, is a special education teacher in Madison-Grant United School Corp.
“He graduated with a phys ed degree and never taught a day of phys ed,” Cline said of his father.
His mother, Kendra Cline, is a choir teacher in Hagerstown.
Source: The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin, http://bit.ly/2dnig2h
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin.