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NFA history teacher named Connecticut History Day teacher of the year

Norwich — Norwich Free Academy history teacher Karen Cook on Monday eagerly awaited word on whether NFA students or other students from southeastern Connecticut would be named state winners of the Connecticut History Day competition and go onto the national competition.

She did not imagine that her name would be announced even before the student winners.

Cook, who heads the school's History and Social Studies Department, was named the Connecticut History Day high school teacher of the year. She will now compete for the National History Day Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award. Middle school teacher Salwa Collings of Madina Academy in Windsor is the state’s junior division winner.

Each teacher will receive $500, and they are in the running for $10,000.

“The nominees for the Behring Award have shown a dedication to teaching that goes beyond the classroom,” said Cathy Gorn, National History Day executive director, in a news release announcing the state winners. “These educators are leading examples for their peers and invaluable resources for their students.”

NFA has participated in Connecticut History Day for the past three years, starting when NFA expanded its honors program to include ninth grade history. The competition is open to freshmen and juniors, and Cook said some of NFA’s 11th graders are the school’s first repeat participants.

In normal times, NFA hosts about 150 students from throughout the region in the district competition. Cook is History Day site coordinator for the Norwich regional competition, with retired Groton teacher Elizabeth Porter as contest coordinator. NFA treats the students to tours of the Slater Memorial Museum and the historic NFA campus.

“This year, it was all virtual,” Cook said. “We were not a host site, but our role at NFA was to support the students, help them revise and submit projects.”

Cook said she was honored to be named the Connecticut History Day teacher of the year nominee, especially since NFA is a youngster in the competition.

“I’m pretty new to it,” Cook, a 22-year veteran NFA teacher, said. “Some teachers have been doing it for decades and decades. It’s very nice to be recognized. I’m just pleased our school efforts were recognized.”

Student winners were announced Monday evening. NFA student Samantha Davey won first place for her website project on the presidential debate, and Stonington High School student Dante Martino-Hart placed third for a project "Radio Killed the Communist Star: How Radio Free Europe ended the Communist Dictatorship of Eastern Europe 1989-1990."

In the middle school category, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School had winners in two categories. Students Kate Walsh and Simon Karpinski won second place for a documentary, "Terry Fox: Marathon of Hope," and students Natalie Barndt and Ada LaCont won first place for an exhibit "Titanic: The Fateful Voyage."

The complete list of Connecticut History Day state and regional winners are posted at www.historydayct.org.

c.bessette@theday.com

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