BUCKHANNON — Adena Barnette (WVWC ’03), of Ripley, is the 2021 West Virginia History Teacher of the Year recipient from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to K-12 history education while serving the American public.
Barnette, a secondary social studies education major at West Virginia Wesleyan College, teaches at Ripley High School where she also graduated. She developed her interest in politics and history from her family and grew up reading and discussing history and current events.
“It is something I have always been passionate about,” Barnette said.
Barnette continued learning after her WVWC experience, participating in three Teaching American History grants sponsored by WVWC. She returned to campus from 2004 to 2014 throughout the school year and during her summers to learn about American history from Dr. Robert Rupp and Dr. Lynn Rupp, retired professors. Barnette credits their mentorship and writing letters of recommendation that led to her winning the James Madison Fellowship in 2011. That fellowship funded her Master’s of Arts in American History and Government from Ashland University.
Barnette also won the WV DAR Outstanding Teacher of American History in 2016. She placed third in the nationwide contest.
For this award, Barnette was nominated by a previous recipient, John Quesenberry. She then submitted her curriculum vitae, a letter of recommendation from a supervisor, a lesson plan from her classroom using primary sources and student work examples.
The lesson Barnette submitted involved students using excerpts from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography to write a letter to the editor or write an abolitionist speech.
“My students made me cry with their words,” she said. “They got to the very soul of the abolitionist arguments for the emancipation of American slaves.”
As the state winner, Barnette receives a $1,000 honorarium, American history books and a free graduate course. The national winner will be announced in fall 2021.
Barnette said, “This award makes me want to even work harder in my classroom. At the end of the day, what really matters is that my students are not only learning the content but that each class period is memorable and engaging. I am a teacher because I love my students and I want to make a difference.”
Barnette will begin year 19 of teaching this fall.