Professor wins award for literacy program

An Associate professor at Tech will be recognized by the National Council for the Social Studies for developing a program that integrates geography into social studies classes. Lisa Zagumny, curriculum and instruction associate professor, developed the program and will receive the NCSS award for the enhancement of geographic literacy.

“We hope that this program will provide teachers with the tools they need to enhance geographic literacy,” Zagumny said. “Geography is offered but not a common course in middle and elementary schools.”

Co-presented by Tech student Amanda Richey and former students Melissa Creek and Abir El Daba, the program will be a workshop at the Tennessee Council of Social Studies annual conference March 12, 2011.

The program will blend national geography standards into curriculum standards for the social studies. Participants will receive five student trade books and a copy of Geography for Life. They will also receive a packet of supplementary materials including a DVD.

“They love it because they get the loot,” Zagumny said.

Zagumny was awarded a $2,500 grant in 2009 from the NCSS. This grant has funded the workshop “Incorporating the Geography of Muslims & Islam into Social Studies.” Much of the expense, $1,200, was workshop participant registration; the remainder has been spent on supplies and handbooks.

The potential impact of this program could mean teachers have a better way to teach geography. In creating this program, Zagumny focused on Muslim and Islam geography because they were the most commonly ignored in text books and other teaching materials.

“When teachers are uncomfortable with a specific topic or know little about a topic,” Zagumny said, “they are less likely to provide in-depth instruction.”

It is Zagumny’s hope that teachers will be provided with enough tools and information to enrich their understanding of Muslim and Islam.

“Students in these teachers’ classrooms will then be more likely to experience enhanced geographic literacy about cultures, people and places perhaps markedly different from their own” Zagumny said.

The NCSS will award Zagumny during the Nov.12-14 conferences at The Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

“They sent me the information for the award ceremony,” Zagumny said. “They’re giving me a life-sized check. I don’t know where it’s going to fit on the plane.