Ten teachers from across the country received an email on Sept. 7 that announced they were finalists for the Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year Award for 2022. One of the finalists was high school history teacher Lisa Rauschart.
“It was very exciting and unexpected,” Rauschart told the Bit in an interview. She said her friends and colleagues congratulated her soon after she received the email. “When she told me she had won, I wasn’t surprised,” fifth grade dean and humanities teacher Judy Brown said.
Rauschart explained that many history teachers at GDS have nominated others in the department for the award for many years. This year, she was nominated by Brown. Brown and Rauschart met almost 15 years ago when the high school and lower/middle school history departments had divisional meetings together.
Brown recalled receiving numerous emails from the Gilder Lehrman organization, but said that one about nominating a teacher stood out to her. “I couldn’t think of anybody who deserved it more than Lisa,” she said.
After the institution receives the year’s nominations, Gilder Lehrman selects individual winners for the History Teacher of the Year award on the state level, and from the pool of state winners, selects ten finalists to be considered for the national award.
According to the Gilder Lehrman website, the institution is a non-profit that strives to provide K–12 educators with resources to help promote “history education.” The website also says that Gilder Lehrman’s “mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs,” and that since 2004, 960 history teachers have been named History Teacher of the Year on the state level.
At first, Rauschart did not know that Brown had nominated her and didn’t find out until she had received an email from the organization explaining the next steps in the nomination process. “You have to submit all kinds of material—lessons, sample-student work, your philosophy of education—and they then evaluate that,” Rauschart said. In order to continue the process, nominees have to submit up to 15 pages of materials; otherwise, the nominee is taken out of the running.
At first, Rauschart was hesitant to proceed with the process because she thought it would be time-consuming, but Brown “nudged me to fill out the application,” Rauschart said. “I am the teacher I am today because of my colleagues,” she added.
Gilder Lehrman later announced that Misha Matsumoto Yee won the national award.
In July, a few months prior to being selected as a finalist on the national level, Rauschart was named D.C. History Teacher of the Year for 2022.
Rauschart received one thousand dollars, a gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman book store and access to its free online courses. She said she has already signed up for courses called “Black Lives in the Founding Era” and “Slavery in the Americas.”
After she graduated from college, Rauschart served for Volunteers in Service to America during the 1980s in Indiana where she taught Black history at a night school that she was in charge of. She then taught at other schools in D.C. before joining the GDS lower/middle school as a sixth grade history teacher. She then switched over to the high school in 1999.
“I went to public school myself, so I really relish the difference between having teachers who are there to just kind of stand and deliver and then leave, and those with the sense of discovering things and connecting the dots in new ways,” Rauschart said. “GDS has allowed me to also be a student. I feel like I am learning and discovering along with my students.”
In 2015, Rauschart was diagnosed with cancer. According to Brown, Rauschart’s “main concern was her students. Part of her healing was knowing that she would be coming back to the classroom,” she said. “It just shows how resilient and strong she is in the face of adversity.” Rauschart is now cancer-free.
Senior Alex Wood, who took Rauschart’s Upper Level U.S. History course last year, said that Rauschart “engages with her students on a personal level. She makes an effort to form a connection with each individual student and she always tries to teach them in a way that is engaging to them personally.”
Like Brown, Wood was “unsurprised” that Rauschart was named D.C. History Teacher of the Year. “She totally deserved it,” she said.
Brown said that Rauschart “is someone who goes beyond what is expected” and she thinks it is “admirable” how much time and effort Rauschart puts into her teaching and her students. Junior Joe Finklestein, who is taking Rauschart’s class this year, agreed with Brown’s sentiment. “She provided a ton of opportunities outside of class to delve deeper into history and go on all sorts of trips,” he said.
Rauschart said she plans to attend an upcoming virtual welcoming event hosted by Gilder Lehrman. She added that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education is still planning ceremonial events for the state winners and that more details will come in late October or November.