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Teachers from across U.S. visit Selma

Thirty teachers from all across the country traveled to Selma on Monday to explore the rich history of the Civil Rights movement Monday.

The congregation of educators retraced and researched the footsteps of Civil Rights leaders as part of a national institute entitled “‘Stony the Road We Trod…’ Exploring Alabama’s Civil Rights Legacy”.

The program was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with Alabama Humanities Foundation, allows teachers the opportunity to interact with Civil Rights leaders and see prominent locations that they may have only read about in books.

According to project director Dr. Martha Bouyer, the program was started to equip teachers with the tools to teach about the modern Civil Rights Movement.

The program has grown over its 20 years into a three-week institute including 30 teachers.

“They teach a variety of subjects and grade levels,” said Bouyer. “No matter what level the student may be, these teachers, through our studies, will develop a way to better instruct about this level of U.S. History.”

Bouyer said that the educators greatly benefit from experiencing the Civil Rights movement in person rather than just reading about it in a textbook.

“Our program is an interactive, hands on journey,” she said. “The idea of being there greatly enhances the ability to teach about it because you experience it for yourself.”

According to Bouyer, 70 teachers from across the country applied to the program to experience the tour and gain the knowledge needed to better teach about the Civil Rights movement.

“I realized I needed to know more about these issues to better teach my students,” said Andrea Javor, a fifth-grade teacher in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Javor also added how, thanks to inspiration from Joanne Bland, she can teach her students to be activists, despite their young age.

“She was arrested when she was 11,” said Javor. “My students are 11. They’d be terrified to get arrested.”

Bland, who was active in the Voting Rights movement from the time she was 11-years-old and a co-founder of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, led the teachers on a tour of the city Monday and showed them iconic locations around town such as the historic Brown Chapel and the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“I show everybody around,” said Bland. “This was a horrible period and we don’t want it to come back. But if you don’t know where we’ve been, you don’t know where to go. We have to teach that.”