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Teacher chosen for special seminar

COVINGTON -- One Newton County teacher received some special training this summer.

Sara Vinson, who was a middle school teacher at the Montessori School of Covington from 2004 until last year, recently participated in a special invitation-only seminar in Virginia.

After applying earlier in the year, Vinson was accepted into the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for a week-long study. The institute, which was founded in 1994, is a nonprofit organization that offers seminars, lesson plans and other resources for teachers.

"I always try to do something in the summer," said Vinson, a Covington resident. "It's a good way for me to get out and learn something."

In the past, she has participated in seminars at the Atlanta History Center and the Carl Vinson Institute.

At the Gilder Lehrman Institute, leading historians teach courses about their fields of study. Vinson was particularly interested in learning more about the South in American history, Jim Crow and American citizenship, the international impact of the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln.

"I never liked history in high school, and even in college, I took as little of it as I could," Vinson said.

But then she realized she enjoyed it and could make it more enjoyable for her students.

"History doesn't have to be out of a textbook because that's when it becomes boring," she said. "These are people like us and making decisions just like us."

In her class, she enjoys using primary sources like the readings of Frederick Douglass, speeches from Alexander Stephens, analyzing photos and visiting Burge Plantation to learn about Dolly Burge. Her students also have looked at letters from colonial Georgia written by colonists at the time and then write their own letters to make their studies more interesting.

"I can step away from the textbook," she said. "That brings it home."

Nearly 30 teachers from across the United States were chosen to participate in this year's seminar at the Gilder Lehrman Institute. During the program, Vinson most enjoyed visiting historic Virginia and learning more about the Civil War and visiting exhibits to honor the 150th anniversary of it.