What I Did with my Summer: MSAD 58 Social Studies Educator Finds Teaching Inspiration Through the Story of Ona Judge

Never Caught - The Story of Ona Judge

(Book image from Amazon)

This past summer, Crystal Polk, a Social Studies Teacher at Strong Elementary School in MSAD 58 attended a 5-day session entitled “Slavery at Mount Vernon” offered through the George Washington Teacher Institute’s 5-day digital, professional development programs designed to educators.

“I applied to participate because I wanted to learn more about George Washington and slavery with a group of experts and teachers, so that we could also discuss how to best teach the content,” Polk explained. 

Prior to engaging in the program, participants read a book entitled, The One Avoidable Subject of Regret, by Mary V. Thompson, a compelling book about slavery at Mount Vernon. The program layout consisted of synchronous professional development sessions which were a combination of presentations by historians and teachers, virtual tours of different areas on the Mount Vernon estate, and discussions with other participants. In addition, asynchronous assignments were also given throughout the week to keep participants engaged.

“The ongoing support and professional development provided by the George Washington Teacher Institute is amazing and inspiring,” said Polk after finishing the program.

After fulfilling her goal to learn more about George Washington, Mount Vernon, and slavery in general, Polk purchased and read, Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge, a resource that was discussed during the sessions.

Ona Judge was a slave who escaped from the Washington’s and lived out her life in freedom in New Hampshire,” explained Polk. “The book was well written, so I used my stipend money from the Teacher Institute and purchased a class set of these books to use with students. I have used the books with a small group of seventh graders, and I am working on developing a whole unit centered around the life of Ona Judge. I am also working on developing a presentation to share with my local and state colleagues.”

Additionally, this year Polk has been working as a teacher leader with the EVER FI professional development series for Maine teachers. She is planning to share her knowledge and resources when the Ever Fi team presents their African American history content and the 306 online course information with Maine teachers. 

“After this experience, I was asked to serve as a member of the George Washington Teacher Institute Advisory Group,” added Polk. “This group of ninety-two teachers from around the United States will meet digitally on an ongoing basis to discuss content related to George Washington and professional development opportunities for educators.”

To learn more about the George Washington Teacher Institute visit their website. To learn more about social studies professional development opportunities and more, join Maine DOE’s Social Studies Listserv here. For more information and questions about social studies resources for Maine educators, contact Joe Schmidt at joe.schmidt@maine.gov.