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Texas State alumna up for prestigious teaching award

Date of Release: 05/18/2005

SANMARCOS—Texas State University-San Marcos alumna Whitney Blankenship has been named as a finalist in the prestigious H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards.

Blankenship, who earned a B.S. in applied sociology in 1987 and a M.A. in history in 1992, is among 48 finalists chosen from across Texas competing for 10 awards. At Texas State she wrote her M.A. thesis, "Pharisees and Scribes: The Use of Judaic imagery in the New Light Protest and the Old Light Response," directed by William Liddle of the Department of History. She also served as an instructor in the Department of History from 1991-1993. Currently she teaches history, psychology and geography at Leander High School and the survey of United States history at Austin Community College.

Blankenship uses a number of techniques to engage her students in the study of history. For instance, she relies heavily on the use of historical documents: “We spend time analyzing documents . . . together as a class, then in smaller groups and slowly work to the point where students work on them independently.

“Emphasizing primary sources, along with the idea that history is a story, keeps students interested and connected to the material. They seem to have a better understanding of the interplay between social, intellectual, political and economic history,” she said. “It also gives them a personal connection as they begin to see the historical figures as real people who lived, worked and were affected by the events that occurred during their lifetimes. Making that connection makes all the difference in their attitude toward the class.”

Blankenship has also recently begun incorporating her own historical research into the classroom.

“A few years ago I started interviewing WWII veterans and taping the interviews, some of which I use in class. I also have an interview with a local Holocaust survivor and a liberator that I show back to back,” she said. “I then have the class compare what the veterans remember with other written accounts, government propaganda and textbook interpretations. I really get a kick out of seeing them ‘do’ history rather than just listening to me lecture.”