UPDATE: Lisa has been named one of ten finalists for the National History Teacher of the Year award. Congratulations!
This August, GDS High School history teacher Lisa Rauschart was named 2022 DC History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The award, which honors one K–12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and U.S. Territories, acknowledges a prodigious career during which Lisa has consistently demonstrated not only expertise as a teacher but also great generosity to students, first in Middle School and now in the High School.
According to the institute’s press release, “The History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school.”
In recommending Lisa for this award, GDS Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid Chris Levy wrote “Lisa’s dedication to her craft as an educator, mentor, and advisor has made her a model for others to emulate.” Chris worked closely with Lisa for more than 17 years as a fellow teacher and assistant principal. “Lisa's pedagogical approach centers on the student experience. Her unwavering commitment to helping children develop their minds and intellect and fostering their curiosities underscores the numerous hours she spends outside of school supporting them.”
Avani Ahuja, a graduate from the Class of 2022 who qualified for the National History Day (NHD) competition three times, credits Lisa’s support as a key factor in her success and her deep appreciation for the study of history.
“Lisa has been a part of my history career since freshman year, whether it was pulling out helpful newspaper clips after overhearing a conversation in the history department, or meeting me every Saturday for an entire year my junior year to talk about history, recommend books, or help me with papers,” Avani said. “She changed the way I think about history, helping me eliminate presentism, critique secondary sources, and realize that historiography is inevitably a product of its time. Without her support, I wouldn’t have developed my current love for history, and Lisa’s guidance alongside Cliff [Coates] and Carlos [Angulo] helped me qualify for nationals in the NHD competition three times. Lisa taught me what passion for teaching and history really looks like, and I will forever be grateful for the years I worked with her.”
Chris also noted the rich, varied, and memorable teaching models Lisa uses to teach and inspire young people. “She uses a flexible approach that teaches students how to evaluate and assess a range of documents that include both primary and secondary sources, images, and even music,” he wrote. “This contemporary approach fuels students’ interest in the subject matter.” In Lisa’s classes, students collaborate to do the work of historians, corroborating and piecing together distinct threads of research into a cohesive, complete story, which they share back to their classmates.
“Students love the experience because Lisa makes learning accessible and fun,” Chris wrote.
“Lisa was my 6th-grade homeroom teacher and was one of my favorite teachers at GDS,” said Greer Gladney, a digital marketing and administrative assistant at the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center, who graduated with the GDS Class of 1999. “My best memory is probably the time that our class participated in an archeological dig at the home of one of our classmates. If I remember correctly, Demetrius Gross ’99 was digging around in his backyard and stumbled across a rusted tin soldier. He brought it into class to show to Lisa, as she had told us that she had an amateur interest in archeology. After gaining Demetrius's permission, Lisa took the tin soldier to show it to friends in the anthropology department at Georgetown University, who dated the tin soldier to the Civil War. Next thing we knew, our entire 6th-grade class was in Demetrius's backyard, assisting in an archeological dig. It was fantastic—and spearheaded by the efforts of an outstanding educator.”
During her tenure as history department chair, Lisa expanded course offerings to include American Studies with a focus on Gender and Immigration, Latin American Studies, Asian History, and African History. She worked with department members to develop the current 9th grade course, which sought to center the Black experience in the nation’s capital and allow students to “do” history the way historians do, rather than memorize names and dates or regurgitate facts. She also shepherded the development of the Contemporary Issues course, the first course in the department to be proposed and developed by students, allowing them to engage deeply around critical topics about which they were most passionate.
In addition to her regular classes during the 2021-22 school year, Lisa also worked with a group of four then-seniors* on independent research projects called Race, Place, and Real Estate: Family Journeys, through which they explored the intersection of race and place within and beyond the Washington, DC area through the lives and experiences of four Black families—their own. They attempted to trace their family histories and homes back as far as they could go, using census data and other records along with family stories. In spring 2022, when they presented their research at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library during the DC History Conference, attendees practically swarmed the students at the conclusion of the session to applaud their research. Lisa also moderated the session.
For more than 10 years, Lisa has served as the faculty advisor to the History Speaker Series, which aims to tackle issues plaguing present-day communities through discussions of race, socioeconomics, gender, etc. through a historical lens with leading history and political science professors from several colleges and universities in the DMV. The series, which is co-led by High School students, is particularly noteworthy because it brings together all members of the school community.
Lisa was graduated with Distinction in History from Georgetown University and went on to get her teaching certification and MA in Education from UDC. She developed a keen perspective on the ways race, privilege, and power operate in education through diverse experiences as a community organizer in Indiana, as a teacher at Armstrong High School, and Nannie Helen Burroughs School in Northeast Washington, and as a freelance writer. Lisa continues to explore those intersections in her classes at GDS, whether students are exploring stories not always recorded in conventional histories, uncovering connections through works with archival documents, or venturing outside the classroom to experience different worlds and perspectives.
Lisa is now eligible for consideration in the National History Teacher of the Year competition. This fall, the Gilder Lehrman Institute will announce ten finalists from among the state winners.
Please join us in congratulating Lisa on this great, well-deserved honor.
*Brock Davis ’22, Ahlyah Albritton ’22, John (Chris) Massey ’22, and Antonio Cyrus ’22