Students from Knoxville, Maryville, Watertown and Memphis Perform Well at National History Day

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Students Deanna Upchurch, Hannah Robbins and Eli Harrison accept awards at National History Day 2016.

Six Tennessee students finished among the top ten in their categories at National History Day this month.

In all, 58 middle and high school students represented Tennessee in the competition, in which students prepare documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances and websites with historical themes. The overall theme of this year's contest was "Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History."

Tennessee's students, some working in groups and some working individually, submitted a total of 35 entries. The students earned the right to compete at National History Day by winning medals at the state contest, Tennessee History Day, which is organized by the Tennessee Historical Society and co-sponsored by the Tennessee Secretary of State's office and Humanities Tennessee.

Ten teachers accompanied the delegation to National History Day and participated in professional development opportunities.

The delegation began the week with a pizza party, followed by the opening ceremony. The students had the opportunity to meet with Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker and attend a private reception at the National Museum of American History. After all of the entries had been judged, National History Day culminated in the awards ceremony, when the six students from Knoxville, Maryville, Watertown and Memphis placed in the final top ten.

The finalists from Tennessee were:

  • Junior Group Performance, 8th place
    • Hannah Robbins, Eli Harrison
    • Maryville, Clayton-Bradley Academy
    • Entry: "Marconi: Changing the World Through the Exploration of the First Wireless"
    • Teachers: Liz Shugart, Cherie Miller 
  • Senior Individual Paper, 4th place
    • Ibtihal Malley
    • Memphis, Pleasant View School
    • Entry: "The French Exploration and Occupation of Syria: Encounters and Exchanges that Left a Lasting Legacy"
    • Teacher: Andre Clarke
  • Senior Group Documentary, 9th place
    • Kenton Smith, Benjamin Hall
    • Knoxville, L & N Stem Academy
    • Entry: "Buying In: The Music of Vince Guaraldi"
    • Teacher: Derek Griffin
  • Senior Individual Documentary, 10th place
    • Deanna Upchurch
    • Watertown, Watertown High School
    • Entry: "Directing a War: Hollywood's Encounter with World War II"
    • Teacher: Barbara Marks

Hannah Robbins and Eli Harrison received the prize for Best Affiliate (State) Entry, Junior Division. Deanna Upchurch was awarded the prize for Best Affiliate (State) Entry, Senior Division.

Two students were selected to showcase their exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Rohan Gupta and Parker Norton presented their senior group exhibit to museum visitors. Rohan and Parker attend McCallie School in Chattanooga, where Duke Richey is their teacher. Their project, “Excavating the Tennessee Valley: Thomas Lewis, Madeline Kneberg, and Explorations in New Deal Anthropology,” examined the role of Tennessee’s first archaeologists in preserving the state’s history.

Kaylie Pomerantz and Laila Stempkowski of St. John Neumann School in Knoxville were invited to attend a Congressional breakfast showcasing projects devoted to local history. Their junior group documentary, “Tennessee’s Journey to Desegregate Schools,” won first place at the state contest. Their teacher is Michele Tarricone.

“Participating in History Day is just the beginning of their academic adventures,” said Tennessee History Day coordinator Jennifer C. Core. “History Day allows them to examine primary sources and interpret an event or time period for an audience. They become experts on school desegregation or the Hays Code or Zheng He. The skills that they acquire during this yearlong research project prepare them for college and the workplace.”

“I'm proud of our students for representing Tennessee so well,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Research has shown that students who participate in History Day tend to do better in their academic lives and their careers than peers who don't participate in the program. I'm sure we can expect big things from these students in the future.”

Two teachers were recognized as Tennessee's Patricia Behring Teachers of the Year: Cindy Flynn of Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg and Duke Richey of McCallie School in Chattanooga. Each received a framed certificate and $500.

Teacher Scott Johnson of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin was named a Behring Teacher Ambassador. Johnson has been asked to expand the role of National History Day in Tennessee. He will attend a training session in July and develop curriculum for Tennessee History Day teachers.

National History Day is a yearlong academic organization for middle and high school students focused on the teaching and learning of history. A recent study by Rockman et al found students who participate in National History Day develop a range of college and career-ready skills and outperform their peers on state standardized tests in multiple subjects, including reading, science, math and social studies. The program engages 7,000 students across the state of Tennessee.