What I Did with my Summer: Bonny Eagle Educator Explores Women’s History Through Martha Washington’s Story

“Any time I find a class or webinar about the history of American women, I try to take it,” said Bonny Eagle Social Studies Teacher Dawna Cyr. 

As part of completing her master’s degree, Cyr examined what is taught in history classes about American women, outlining an American women’s history class that she hoped to teach one day. Since then, Cyr was given the opportunity to teach the course, HerStory, which she continues to teach to this day.

It was this passion for teaching women’s history, along with some former experience studying the life of George Washington at his home Mount Vernon, Virginia that drove Cyr to decide to study his wife, Martha Washington and the women of the 18th century through the George Washington Teacher Institute’s 5-day digital professional development programs this past summer.

Designed to support K12 educators who teach about the life, leadership, and legacies of George Washington and the 18th-century world in which he lived, the George Washington Teacher Institute’s online courses offer many options and flexibility for educators to choose 18th-century subjects that are most relevant to their classroom. As described on the George Washington Teacher Institute website:

Martha Washington’s story, although unparalleled in many ways, provides a well-documented access point to a better understanding of the experiences available to women throughout the colonies and the newly formed nation in the 18th century.

Cyr recalls the many lecture options offered in the program she took, everything from Colonial Women and Martha Washington herself, to Gender and Racial Construct in Colonial America, Enslaved Women, and Native American Women, to Women’s Education and Leadership in Revolutionary America, along with Music of the time period.

“I have so many things that I have brought back to my class,” said Cyr reflecting on the outcomes of her experience.  “I have added information that I learned into my lectures and presentations, and I tell my students stories from the program and share information that I learned.”

As a result of this program, Cyr has added even more books about women to her extensive collection. “I have read about Martha Washington, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Oney Judge, enslaved women, and women of the American Revolution,” she said. As a social studies teacher, Cyr is constantly looking for materials/information that she can share with her students or incorporate into her lectures, which has been a huge benefit to embarking on this program.

To learn more about 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@maine.gov.