Donna Spivak, a teacher at Michael Grimmer Middle School in Schererville, led professional development training for other teachers in "We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution" on July 9-13. Spivak was one of 48 teachers from Indiana attending the training, where they received 32 hours of professional educational certification.
The "We the People" educational model teaches elementary, middle school and high school students about the institutions of American democracy and contemporary application of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. After a semester of classroom instruction and work in small groups, the students present their facts and opinions in mock congressional hearings before panels of adult judges.
Spivak was chosen by the Indiana Bar Foundation, which operates the "We the People" program in Indiana, to instruct other teachers because she has taught the program for 20 years in the Lake Central School Corp. She is currently a fifth-grade educator at Michael Grimmer. This was the first year the foundation held a special training solely for elementary teachers.
“The Foundation invests heavily in professional development for teachers,” said Collin Gruver, director of civic education programs for the foundation. “It shows, too, in the results. Research shows these students become informed and engaged citizens. They vote at higher rates than their peers. They understand government’s roles and citizens’ responsibilities.”
“Every year I am witness to the phenomenal growth my students go through due to the 'We the People' program. It sincerely changes lives for the better," Spivak said. "Speaking, researching and writing skills go up, but it's the students' self-confidence that amazes me. Children who barely speak at the beginning of the year are stating their point of view to judges and professors ... and liking it."