A Carmel High School history teacher has been nominated for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award. The award, which recognizes the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of students, is sponsored by Patricia Behring, widow of the late Kenneth E. Behring, who previously sponsored the National History Day National Contest for many years.
Jason Elrite was nominated in the senior division and was recognized at the National History Day in Indiana State Contest April 22. The national winner will be selected by a committee of experienced teachers and historians and announced June 15 at the NHD National Contest Awards Ceremony in College Park, Md.
“It is an incredible honor to be nominated as Indiana’s candidate for this national award,” Elrite said. “Having been involved with National History Day in Indiana for the past 10 years, I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous results my fellow teachers and their students throughout the state achieve with each new contest.”
Elrite, 56, is in his 35th year as a public-school teacher. He has taught at CHS for 18 years. He first became interested in history while building plastic scale models as a kid.
“Every set of directions came with some background knowledge on the tank or airplane I was recreating. Wanting to know more, I started checking out World War II books from my local public library,” Elrite said. “As time wore on, I found myself further and further drawn into the world of historical fiction as well as non-fiction accounts from both world wars along with the American Civil War. My passion for imparting knowledge to my students is based upon the enjoyment that learning about the past has given me.”
Nominees’ work must illustrate the development and use of creative teaching methods that engage students in history. Elrite said an interdisciplinary class called World Block that he created with CHS social studies teacher Katie Kelly is the basis for his teaching method. The class combines language arts and world history into a single humanities class where students can explore almost any topic of their choosing as long as it connects to a broad annual theme.
“This arrangement allowed us to bring in literary pieces that closely reflected whatever period was being studied at the time. This could mean the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ with early civilizations or ‘Things Fall Apart’ with the European colonization of Africa,” Elrite said. “The point being that our students are always looking at any historical era through a variety of lenses.”