Harlem Academy’s middle school history teacher, Sean Robertson, was named New York State History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He was selected by a panel of teachers, administrators, and scholars for his use of primary documents in the classroom, the level of inspiration he provides to his students, and his career achievements in education.
“It is an honor and truly humbling to be recognized by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. I want to share this honor with my students, whose curiosity, excitement for history, and thoughtful questions have pushed me to be a better student of history and a better teacher,” reflected Sean.
Teacher Sean Robertson researched and developed his unique two-year U.S. history curriculum.
Eighth-grade student, Kijani-Ali Gaulman, shared his motivation for submitting a nomination, “Mr. Robertson is so engaged in the subject, and that makes me want to be engaged as well. He writes his own books and develops his own materials. He has taught me so much - I know I will remember what I have learned from him.
Over the past five years, Sean has researched and developed Harlem Academy’s innovative, two-year U.S. history curriculum. The accompanying textbooks, called “Junior Historian Field Manuals,” position students as investigators of history, not passive recipients of information.
The program explores six transformational events through the lens of primary sources, such as political cartoons, newspaper articles, journals and letters, music, and videos. As they grapple with different accounts, students learn the importance of questioning sources, reconciling different perspectives, contextualizing information, and identifying the author’s purpose and bias.
The timing and focus of the course around six turning points over two years challenges students to dive deeply into the big questions of the discipline - the arc of our nation’s history, the key drivers of change, and the causes and effects of the events that have shaped our country. It also allows time to explore our nation’s recent history so that students are able to understand current events and participate as informed and engaged citizens.
“Sean has a passion for history that is infectious and an understanding of the discipline that has led him to author an outstanding resource for sharing that passion more broadly,” added head of school Vinny Dotoli. “We are lucky to have him as part of such a committed and innovative team.”