When it comes to education, the community wants to know how money is spent, but it doesn’t want to know that compared to the rest of the country. Arizona ranks 50th in education funding and has suffered the biggest education funding cuts in the country. People want to know what the school district is doing wrong. Jamie Festa-Daigle, Lake Havasu City High School economic and government teacher, is an example of everything the district is doing right.
Festa-Daigle was selected to receive the American Civic Education Teacher Awards for 2012.
“We are so very honored that Jamie received this award,” said Gail Malay superintendent of the Lake Havasu Unified School District. “It was earned. Jamie has always been committed to teaching civics and really helping our student’s understanding of government — she is a real leader.”
The honor is awarded by the Center for Civic Education, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and the National Education Association. The award recognizes only three teachers nationally per year. The three recipients are teachers, K-12, that demonstrate a special expertise in teaching about the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress, and public policy at the state and local levels; and prepare young people to become informed and engaged citizens.
“I found out early in the summer,” Festa-Daigle said. “Right after we got out of school — I would say June.”
Festa-Daigle stated that she was really surprised when she got the news. “Civic education is really important to me,” she said.
It was her childhood that sowed the seeds for her future accolades.
“I spent a lot of my childhood and vacations on Civil War battlefields,” Festa-Daigle said. “My Dad loved history. When you go to my parent's house it is a library of history books.”
Festa-Daigle’s early years were spent talking, reading, and watching television about history. “It was the most important part of my relationship with my dad,” she said. “It is what we did as a family.”
When Festa-Daigle was young, she thought she wanted to be a historian, “but I realized I had to make some kind of living … so to interact with history, I went to school to become a social studies teacher.”
Festa-Daigle is an advocate of extending the classroom beyond the school gates. All students are required to see their government in action; every student has to attend at least one City Council meeting. This year, 60 students were required to work at one of several polling places during the election.
“My teaching style is for students to own their learning,” Festa-Daigle said. “I believe they learn the best by going out into the world.”
Festa-Daigle facilitates the acceptance of shared and different views and ideas. She understands the importance that her students own their ideas and views, but are accepting of the opposite.
“What I see lacking in citizenship is the acceptance of people’s ideas that are different than their own,” Festa-Daigle said, “acceptance of different views and political agendas.”
There was a time when teenagers only understood what was within their community, but in the age of digital mass media, teenagers are wired to the world.
“I have seen a change post 9-11,” Festa-Daigle said. “Students are much more aware that we are part of a global community … they are more aware because they have much more access to information through technology then they did 10 years ago.”
Festa-Daigle stated that kids can get there news through their phone or other digital devices. “It is amazing how quick they can find information,” she said. She also realized the danger of the digital super highway, which can lack the checks and balances of a traditional newspaper or news outlet
“Look what happened in China,” Festa-Daigle said.
The Onion, which is a satirical newspaper, ran a story stating that Kim Jon-un, the North Korean dictator was voted 2012’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” The People’s Daily, the official paper of China’s Communist Party, ran a 55-page photo spread of the Korean dictator to go along with a news story of the award.
“There needs to be a sense of civic literacy that is needed to navigate through all this digital media,” Festa-Daigle said. “There is a need for students to not only access information, but understand where it is from and what it means.”
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