Meet Our Teachers: Christina Cote

“I do know my college students fairly effectively by the point they’re seniors,” says Christina Cote. She teaches each historical past and authorities course they take between seventh and twelfth grade. In Gardiner, Montana, a city of lower than 1000 folks on the northern border of Yellowstone Nationwide Park, Cote is the public-school face of social research. She can also be Montana’s 2020 winner of the Gilder Lehrman Trainer of the 12 months award.
The pandemic and the transfer to distant instructing gave Cote time to use for the award (she was not, for instance, spending afternoons teaching the speech and debate staff and Saturdays driving them to distant meets). The lesson plans she submitted along with her utility confirmed how she tailored research of major paperwork to the net platform. “How would I train the Civil Battle with out falling again on boring lectures?”
Fortuitously, all of her college students have Chromebooks. She launched them to on-line archives of outdated newspapers, the place they discovered casualty knowledge on days after Civil Battle battles. She requested them to learn letters and diaries of troopers in on-line libraries. Her college students got here to grasp the battlefield expertise and hardships of these combating our nation’s bloodiest battle.
From the Lengthy Human Story, What Historical past Ought to College students Study?
Whether or not instructing remotely or on-line, Cote manages six completely different preparations. She teaches historical world historical past to seventh and eighth graders, trendy world historical past to ninth graders, US historical past to juniors, and authorities to seniors (within the latter course, some college students do further work for AP credit score). Sophomores might decide to take AP European historical past as an elective. Every class is a small group of 12 or 13 college students.
“I do know the scope and sequence not solely of every course, however of the entire secondary social research curriculum,” Cote stated. Selecting—as all historical past lecturers should—which components of historical past to cowl and which to depart out, she considers what college students most must study. Since “historical past is far more significant once you have a look at the small print,” Cote selects key factors in historical past for “deep dives. Then I do bridges between the areas we research in depth.”
In highschool, she teaches historical past thematically. “This retains me from simply going from one battle to the subsequent battle to the subsequent. Academics can simply try this, forgetting that there have been additionally ladies residing in the course of the historical past, and marginalized teams, and other people making artwork. While you train thematically, you’ll be able to hyperlink occasions throughout time.”
Her US historical past class covers 4 themes, one every quarter. First, they research the growth of the nation—studying “why the borders of the US are what they’re” and scrutinizing episodes like battle with Mexico in gentle of the Monroe Doctrine. Subsequent, they contemplate the  downside of “inequalities” in a nation based on the precept of equality. The third quarter addresses financial historical past, overlaying fundamental financial phrases, the populist and progressive responses to industrialization, the rise of unions, and the Grange Act. “We additionally simulate the Twenties inventory market: They purchase and promote inventory, then they lose all their cash as a result of I shut the banks.” Fourth quarter is completely dedicated to American wars.
Discovering Colleagues By Summer season Trainer Applications
To satisfy colleagues in her content material space, Cote seeks out summer season skilled growth alternatives. “One of many coolest skilled experiences I’ve ever had was the 2007 Presidential Academy.” This forerunner of Educating American Historical past, designed by Ashbrook and funded by a Division of Schooling grant, was a three-week movable feast of major doc research and historic web site visits. One trainer from every state within the nation was chosen for a seminar that moved from Philadelphia to Gettysburg to Washington, DC, exploring the Founding, the Civil Battle, and the Civil Rights motion by way of major paperwork. “I don’t know what number of instances I’ve shared with my college students issues I realized throughout that have—by way of interplay with different lecturers, from visiting historic websites, or from the students who taught us. With Professor Lucas Morel, we went by way of most of The Federalist papers. They actually set a excessive normal—making us need to come again and set a excessive normal in our personal school rooms.”
Throughout the subsequent tutorial yr Cote utilized for and was awarded a Madison fellowship. She used it to enroll within the new Grasp of Arts in American Historical past and Authorities program, grateful for a possibility to review American historical past in the course of the summer season. “I wished that prime tutorial expertise once more,” Cote stated.
How College students Study to Learn for Each Phrase
“This system helped me use major paperwork to make historical past actual. I used to be doing it earlier than, however I’ve such a stronger dedication to that now. I’m not going to ask college students to learn each web page of each Federalist paper, however having gone by way of each phrase of these texts with Dr. Morel, I’m extra snug guiding college students by way of excerpts.”
Gilbert Stuart, Abigail Smith Adams (Mrs. John Adams), American, 1755 – 1828, 1800/1815, oil on canvas, Reward of Mrs. Robert Homans. Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, 1954.7.2.
Cote introduces college students to major paperwork within the seventh grade. “We learn a big a part of Pericles’ funeral oration. I give every pupil a six-to-ten-line section of the speech, asking them to learn it and take into consideration why Pericles would have stated these phrases, given the occasions of the Peloponnesian Battle. I allow them to wrestle for the which means on their very own, utilizing their Chrome books to lookup unfamiliar vocabulary. Then I ask them to ‘translate’ their passage into their very own phrases.
“Then the children recite what they’ve written in sequence, going by way of the entire speech. This fashion the children study from one another.”
Oral efficiency of texts makes good sense to a extremely profitable debate staff coach (Cote has led Gardiner’s staff to 16 state championships). Generally she asks college students to learn out loud in unison. “As a result of I ask them to learn with expression, they have to take into consideration each phrase.” In US historical past, college students have loved studying aloud correspondence between Abigail and John Adams, not solely the well-known letter asking John to “bear in mind the women,” however one other wherein Abigail recounts a dialog with a neighbor a few black little one attending a newly opened faculty within the Adams’ hometown of Quincy. The neighbor stories that some college students object to the kid’s presence. Abigail reproduces their dialogue:
“Pray, Mr. Faxon, has the Boy misbehaved? If he has let the Grasp flip him out of college.” – “O no, there was no criticism of that sort, however they didn’t select to go to Faculty with a Black Boy.” . . . –  “Did these Lads ever object to James enjoying for them when at a dance? How can they bear to have a Black within the Room with them there?” – “O it’s not I that object, or my Boys. It’s some others.” – “Pray, who’re they? Why didn’t they arrive themselves?”
Methods like studying in unison assist college students at any degree decelerate and admire a textual content’s which means. However as college students transfer into highschool, in addition they start writing analysis papers, utilizing paperwork to assist arguments.
The Expertise, Data and Outlook Residents Want
This yr, she felt her college students wanted instruction in media literacy. Following an election unusually coloured by conspiracy theories, Cote and the higher faculty English trainer organized for a philosophy professor from Montana State College to talk with the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders about the right way to consider the credibility of stories sources. After working by way of workout routines to use the philosophy professor’s recommendation, the scholars offered what that they had realized to the junior excessive. “I watched a senior who was not faculty certain communicate persuasively to the youthful college students, asking them to think twice about bias within the information,” Cote stated proudly.
Cote additionally insists on a fundamental degree of civic literacy. “I require all my seniors to take a citizenship take a look at. It’s 100 questions, largely drawn from examination taken by immigrants making use of for citizenship. I let college students re-take the take a look at as many instances as crucial, however they have to get an ideal rating to move. As a result of I’ve this repute, they know to anticipate the take a look at. It’s very uncommon that they should take it greater than twice.”
Cote feels privileged to spend six years with college students, serving to them develop into “considering residents.” She hopes they go away her classroom understanding their roles as residents. “We’re all a part of this democracy, and we are able to’t preserve it, except they play their function.”

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