History teacher honored with two awards for educational excellence

October 6, 2016

Scott Wilson, a history teacher at Central, epitomizes these characteristics of excellence such as a passion for his job and willingness to go above the required teaching standards. This past summer he was awarded the Nebraska State Council for Social Studies Outstanding Teacher Award for the Omaha area. Then, earlier in the school year he received the James C. Olson award.

Started in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the importance of history education by honoring exceptional American teachers from elementary school through high school. One exceptional K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and US Territories is honored. From these winners a “National History Teacher of the Year” is selected and honored at a ceremony in New York City. Past presenters include First Lady Laura Bush, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former justice of Supreme Court Sandra Day O’ Connor, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The James C. Olson award was proposed for creation in 2007. It is awarded to educators in Nebraska who exhibit engaging, inspiring, and guiding qualities while pushing their students to discover, enjoy, and learn from the fascinating and important histories we share. A committee drawn from the current Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees, the NSHSS Emeritus Trustees, and the NSHS staff nominates the recipient.

Wilson’s passion for social studies began early in his life and it still influences his craving for history. “[It was] probably in 8th grade. I wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid, but as I got older I appreciated the science less than the animals. My two grandfathers’ war stories got me hooked and they encouraged a more well-rounded understanding of history. They bought me books all the time,” Wilson said.

Moreover, his teaching style continues to be influenced by his 8th grade history teacher. Wilson said, “Mrs. Becker, my 8th grade History teacher at Millard Central Junior High, had an enormous influence on me. She was a real professional and she loved and knew history. She had a real talent for engaging and relevant history lessons. I still remember things she said in class 30 years ago and they find their way into my lessons regularly.”

He never expected these awards and was pleasantly surprised with the recognition he received. Wilson noted that teachers do not do their work with the intent of receiving such honors. “[I was] very much surprised. I was honestly honored that those who nominated me thought enough to do so. I feel very fortunate,” Wilson said.

For younger teachers aspiring to receive this level of recognition one day, one piece of advice Wilson received in his first year of teaching stuck out for him. Legendary Latin teacher Rita Ryan pulled him aside and said, “You know what the key to this job is? Entertain yourself first and the kids second and you’ll be fine.” He still holds this true and continues to practice this concept in class today. “There is a lot of wisdom there,” Wilson said, “Do work that makes you happy and you’ll be surprised at how many students will come along for the ride. It is ok for students to see that you enjoy your work.”

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