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Mount Vernon Awards Teacher Fellowships to Outstanding Educators

Six Educators Chosen to Conduct Research, Build Curricula at Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON, VA — George Washington’s Mount Vernon has selected six educators to participate in an incredible opportunity to enhance their 18th-century knowledge, explore different teaching techniques, and create new curricula for Mount Vernon during their residential fellowship at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Five teachers have been selected for The Life Guard Teacher Fellowship, which enables classroom teachers and educators to work on projects in a variety of themes inspired by the life, leadership, and legacy of George Washington. 

One teacher has been selected for the Reese Teacher Fellowship. This fellowship is awarded to a teacher whose project will connect high school students with text-based primary sources to increase student engagement with the history of the 18th century.

The Life Guard Teacher Fellows Program and The Reese Teacher Fellowship are facilitated by The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, which opened September 27, 2013. Located just outside the main entrance to Washington’s Virginia estate, the Library safeguards original Washington documents and serves as a center for scholarly research and leadership training.

The Life Guard Teacher Fellows Program is made possible by the generous support of The Life Guard Society, a select group of donors to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association who frequently champion education-based causes and initiatives. The Reese Teacher Fellowship is made possible by the William Reese Company. 

By offering funded residential study opportunities for classroom teachers and educators through its Library, Mount Vernon is taking an important step to improve the quality of history education, drawing renewed focus and interest on the founding era and on the remarkable traits and accomplishments of George Washington.  Applying the research they conduct at the estate, fellowship recipients will create and design curriculum materials, lesson plans, electronic media, and other educational materials that Mount Vernon produces and publishes digitally to support educators around the country. The 2019-2020 fellows will conduct on-site research on an array of topics, beginning this summer and continuing through summer 2020.  

The program is available to classroom teachers (grades K-12), curriculum specialists, media specialists, and to others with expertise in creating classroom materials. The next round of proposals for consideration are due February 28, 2020.

For more information about the Life Guard Teacher Fellows Program, please visit

Fellowship recipients include:

Jennifer Burgin – Life Guard Teacher Fellow

Burgin is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches Kindergarten at Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. She will work with Helen Haas to create a bilingual children’s picture book to introduce George Washington, Mount Vernon, and the 18th-century to both English and Spanish speaking students.





Nick Costa – Reese Teacher Fellow


Costa currently teaches 7th grade US History at Gouverneur Middle School in Gouverner, New York. He will create a digital breakout box using 21st-century technology and Mount Vernon’s collections to help engage students in teamwork and critical thinking. Students will use historical thinking and problem solving skills along with primary sources to solve a history mystery and expand their own personal knowledge of George Washington’s world.



Helen Haas – Life Guard Teacher Fellow


Haas teaches Kindergarten at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Downey, California, where she also led the implementation and development of the dual language immersion program. She will work with 2019-2020 Teacher Fellow Jennifer Burgin to create a bilingual children’s picture book to introduce George Washington, Mount Vernon, and the 18th-century to both English and Spanish speaking students.



Matthew Van Horn – Life Guard Teacher Fellow


Van Horn teaches 8th grade history and is a department chair at Saeger Middle School in St. Charles, Missouri. He will create a series of document sets that will explore the day-to-day lives of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon. Students will examine primary and secondary sources to answer essential questions that will help them understand the experiences of the men and women enslaved at Mount Vernon and the diverse slave culture that existed on George Washington’s plantation.


John Clinton Walsh – Life Guard Teacher Fellow


Walsh currently teaches 8th grade American History at Discovery Middle School in Orlando, Florida. He will create a DBQ-style lesson that will ask students to use multiple primary and secondary sources related to the Revolutionary War era to evaluate the question: To what extent did the service of black soldiers influence views and policies regarding slavery in the years following the Revolutionary War?




Tecoya Brantley-Williams – Life Guard Teacher Fellow


Brantley-Williams teaches Government, Macroeconomics, Economics, and Law Education at Swansea High School in Swansea, South Carolina. She will create an inquiry-based project in which students will discover George Washington´s authentic character and compare it to his public persona. Students will use this knowledge to inform their own autobiographical narration on social media. Throughout the project, students will develop analytical and synthesis skills and learn the importance of discretion as they tell their own story.



Public Information: 703.780.3600; 703.799.8697 (TDD);

Since 1860, more than 80 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America.  Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the estate and in classrooms, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.”  Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853. Admission fees, restaurant and retail proceeds, along with private donations, support the operation and restoration of Mount Vernon.

With its latest initiative, The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon is affirming its status as the preeminent center of learning about George Washington, his life, character of leadership, and legacy. In addition to safeguarding original books and manuscripts, the Library serves as a center for leadership, where scholars, influencers, and other luminaries come together to talk about the past as well as the future, inspired by Washington’s extraordinary life, achievements, and character.

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