Local history teacher gets recognition

Scott DeVries named Colorado History Teacher of the Year

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— Instead of fighting advances in technology, Scott DeVries has welcomed them.

He uses iPods and computer chat rooms to communicate with his high school students. And it isn't uncommon for DeVries to jump online the night before a test to check activity on his web page, where every lecture can be downloaded daily or before the semester even begins.

DeVries said that if a student understands more about the Civil War from listening to one of his lectures -- which students can find online -- than from reading a textbook, that is fine with him.

"I try to infuse a lot of enthusiasm in my lectures," DeVries said. "I'm redoing them this summer. There were OK before, but I think they will be better."

DeVries, a native of Steam-boat Springs and a 1976 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, recently was named Colorado History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Preserve America.

DeVries has taught at Preston Junior High School in Fort Collins since 1995. He was a teacher at Cache La Poudre Junior High School in Laporte from 1982 to 1994.

"This award gives us the chance to recognize great history teachers across the country," said Lesley Herrmann, executive director of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. "It puts exceptional educators front and center."

DeVries, an American history and world history teacher, will receive a $1,000 honorarium. He also is a nominee for the National History Teacher of the Year to be selected this fall.

The state recipient is selected based on criteria including experience, career commitment, creativity in the classroom and attention to documents, artifacts, historic sites and other primary materials of history.

DeVries credited former Steamboat Springs High School social studies teacher Jim Heath and teachers/coaches Kelly Meek and Mark Drake with his decision to pursue education.

"Jim was always telling stories and making it relevant with what was going on," DeVries said. "Kelly Meek was my basketball coach, and I had Mark Drake in junior high. They were both big influences on me."

But it wasn't until his senior year of college that DeVries knew he wanted to be a teacher.

"I went and tutored and was hooked," he said.

DeVries has become a proponent of using technology in education, highlighted by a unique online project he is proud to have started. The project, called "Freedom is not Free," allows students to create profiles of war veterans by interviewing a veteran and collecting photos and other images to detail the experiences and memories of the veteran. The Web site includes more than 700 profiles.

DeVries has directed student trips to Washington, D.C., for 23 years. He also helped develop and now teaches the Preston Junior High pre-advanced placement American History course.

The Preston Junior High School's library also will receive a core archive of history books and materials from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History because of DeVries' award.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study of American history. The institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars. Preserve America is a White House initiative that encourages greater shared knowledge about the nation's past and increased local participation in preserving the country's cultural and natural heritage assets.

To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com.

To view the Freedom is Not Free Web site, log on to schoolweb.psdschools.org/preston/fnf2/WW2.htm.

For more information about Preserve America, visit www.preserveamerica.gov.

For more information about the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, visit gilderlehrman.org.

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