Stephanie Shimp, who teaches social studies at West Springfield High School, is one of two teachers in Virginia named a state winner in the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year competition, sponsored by National History Day.
Each state can nominate one middle and one high school teacher for the state award; these individuals are then considered for the national award. Shimp coordinates the National History Day program at West Springfield, planning and coordinating its incorporation into all World History II honors and AP World History classes. She works with other social studies teachers and advises them on how to mentor their students through the process while managing all of the logistics for the competition. Shimp also volunteers as a judge for junior level projects at the regional level. She has shared her knowledge on World History Day with other Fairfax County Public Schools social studies teachers via a presentation on the program at a social studies in-service in 2015.
Shimp believes it is not enough to know what happened, but why events in history took place, and the impact they had on a global scale. As an example, when she teaches a lesson on 19th century Japanese industrialization, she has students analyze the lyrics to a Japanese baseball team’s fight song from that period. They learn the background of baseball in Japan, read the lyrics, and search for evidence of key themes such as nationalism, westernization, traditional values, and imperialism. Students learn that primary sources are more than documents recording events, but that they can also provide valuable insight into why things happen.
Shimp says her students benefit immensely from participating in National History Day projects. “Not only were my students learning research skills, they were learning to analyze and synthesize materials, and put together smaller pieces to create a complete project,” she explains. “They were seeing connections between history and the world around them, and because they were able to select topics they were interested in, the students were really engaged and proud of their work.”
A teacher at West Springfield since 2013, Shimp teaches Advanced Placement World History, World History I honors, and is a homebound instructor for English 9 and World History I honors. She also serves as the school’s Scholastic Bowl It’s Academic team coach. She previously taught at Lee High School and in Norfolk Public Schools for six years. Shimp earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Longwood University and a gifted education endorsement from James Madison University.