Smithsonian Hosts 56 Teachers of the Year to Inspire Learning With Digital Museum Resources

Smithsonian and Council of Chief State School Officers Celebrate 10-Year Collaboration
April 27, 2016
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The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access will host the State Teachers of the Year May 2 for a day of professional learning focused on using digital museum resources with students in creative and innovative ways. These exemplary teachers represent the best in the profession in each state, U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. For 10 years, the center has worked closely with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to bring the annual “Teacher of the Year Day at the Smithsonian” event to life as part of CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year program.

This year’s event, sponsored by Annenberg Learner, features a series of hands-on, collaborative sessions for teachers throughout the Smithsonian. The professional development workshops demonstrate how teachers can use the museums’ digital resources available in the Smithsonian Learning Lab with their students to improve engagement and learning. Following the event, Teachers of the Year can continue their work with the center to advise on and co-develop instructional resources, including creating model collections in the Learning Lab for other educators to use and adapt to fit their needs.

“For 170 years, the Smithsonian has been dedicated to exploring the world around us and sharing our discoveries with learners of all ages,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “For the past decade, our successful partnership with CCSSO through our annual ‘Teacher of the Year Day’ has been instrumental in helping us turn Smithsonian resources into innovative instructional tools that teachers across the country can use to engage, enlighten and inspire.”

Skorton will deliver opening remarks before the State Teachers of the Year embark on activities with educators from the Smithsonian at the following museums:

  • Freer and Sackler galleries
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s ARTLAB+
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • National Museum of African Art
  • National Museum of American History
  • National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Smithsonian Libraries

During the event, Smithsonian educators will model interactive lessons that teachers can bring into their classrooms through online resources and tools as well as provide inspiration and support for teaching. Activities include a curator-led tour of the “WONDER” exhibition at the American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery with demonstrations on using visual-thinking strategies, exploring how a forensic anthropologist’s scientific research was translated into a school program in which students analyze bones to solve a mystery and learning about the invention process at the National Museum of American History’s Spark!Lab, where the teachers will prototype a product of their own in a design challenge.

 “CCSSO is devoted to supporting great teaching through the National Teacher of the Year program, and our collaboration with Smithsonian over the past 10 years has enriched the professional learning of more than 500 state teachers of the year,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. “I applaud the Smithsonian’s commitment to engage the expertise of teachers of the year in the development of the Smithsonian Learning Lab, but the benefit of the collaboration extends far beyond the teachers of the year, enabling learning resources from the Smithsonian to be available to all teachers across the country.”

The Smithsonian Learning Lab, launched in beta in the fall of 2015, is an engaging digital destination for teachers, students and lifelong learners to discover primary resources, create personalized learning experiences and share their creativity and knowledge with others. The website brings together more than a million resources from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine major research centers and the National Zoo, and more. To learn more, visit

About Smithsonian Institution

Since its founding in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has been committed to inspiring generations through knowledge and discovery. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,400 Smithsonian employees and 5,400 volunteers. There were 28 million visits to the Smithsonian in 2015. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at 138 million, including more than 127 million specimens and artifacts at the National Museum of Natural History.

About the National Teacher of the Year Program

The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers and presented by Voya Financial, identifies exceptional teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, amplifies their voices and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels.

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