Hingham High School teacher Christina O’Connor will soon have the opportunity to watch her history lessons come to life as she tours the battlefields and war memorials of Europe.
O’Connor is one of 18 middle and high school teachers selected from a nationwide pool to participate in Understanding Sacrifice, a prestigious study program sponsored by National History Day and the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The program will bring together some of the most talented history teachers in the country to conduct an in-depth study of World War II in Europe and to work on curriculums that they can bring back to their schools and share with teachers elsewhere.
“I’ve always been more focused on social history,” said O’Connor, who applied for the program after receiving an informational mailing from National History Day over the summer. “This is a unique opportunity for me to learn more about military history and teach that in my classes. I’m definitely hoping to incorporate more primary sources and maybe even some personal connections.”
O’Connor has been a member of the social studies department at Hingham High for more than a decade. During her time there, she has served as a class adviser and student council adviser, while leading trips for students to places such as Borneo, Peru, and South Africa. She applied for the Understanding Sacrifice program after receiving an informational mailing from National History Day over the summer.
“She’s very hard-working, with a real passion for teaching and connecting with students,” said Rick Swanson, assistant principal at Hingham High. “I can’t think of anybody who’s more deserving to have this study experience and this travel experience.”
An exclusive study of World War II is something of a departure for O’Connor, who said she’s never taken a class that was devoted entirely to the subject. Next summer, after completing several months of online coursework, she will join the 17 other participants in touring American Battle Monuments Commission sites in England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
“We actually get to see these places and be on this hallowed ground,” she said in an interview. “It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Normandy. But I also like this program because it offers long-term engagement with the subject and provides an opportunity for hands-on learning that we can bring back to our students.”
Understanding Sacrifice began with a formal kickoff in Washington, D.C., Friday and Saturday. In November 2015, O’Connor and the other participants plan to reconvene and share their findings at the 95th National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference in New Orleans.
“I love being a student as well as being a teacher, but I also like being part of a team working on curriculum development,” she said. “I’m really thrilled to be able to do this, and I feel compelled to share what I learn with our students and the Hingham community.”