Wednesday, September 21, 2016

7 Questions with Eddie Bennett, Executive Director of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies

Eddie Bennett, Ed.D., is the Executive Director of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies. Dr. Bennett is a retired Cobb County Social Studies Coordinator and educator. 

1. How and/or when did you get hooked on history?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history.  As a child our family vacations always included stops at state and national parks/historic sites.  On Sunday afternoons, our family drove around our community and my Dad would talk about the people and places he knew as a child.  Also, I was fortunate enough to live near grandparents and would listen to their stories of life before cars, planes, TV, radio, etc.  With great interest I looked at old photographs and asked a million questions.

2. What role does history play or has played in your personal life?
I travel just as much as possible inside and outside of the U.S.  On these trips I always visit museums and sites of historical interest and significance.  My summer 2016 major trip was to Cuba.  When people visit my home in North Georgia, they walk around and look at “stuff” just like in a museum because of the collection of old objects from both sides of my family.

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I majored in history at Mars Hill College.  I taught middle school for almost 9 years.  I taught social studies for all but the first year when I taught reading.  Of course, I found an old set of history books that were ideal for reading, so in reality I taught history the first year as well.  When I went to Pioneer Regional Educational Services Agency I was the social studies specialist in addition to being the Director of Staff Development.  After almost 2 years at the Georgia Department of Education as the Program Specialist for Social Studies, I was the Social Studies Supervisor in the Cobb County School District for 10 years.  After retiring in 2011, I went back to work in Cobb County in the ESOL/Foreign Language Department as a Graduation Specialist working with ESOL and immigrant students helping them to complete high school and get into college or technical college. I have taken advantage of many opportunities to travel and to work in various educational programs in the area of history and social studies.  I have been the Executive Director of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies since 1998.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
I believe that studying and knowing history helps me to understand my place in time.  I look back at the lives of my grandparents and parents and understand that who they were helped me to become who I am.  For example, my grandparents and parents lived through the Great Depression and World War II.  I come from a long line of farmers who struggled during the Depression to make enough money to raise their children, pay property taxes and hold onto their property.  Also, my Dad lost his younger brother in the South Pacific during WWII and my Mother lost her older brother in Germany during WWII.  All of these historical facts have shaped the way I think about the world and my place in it.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
My favorite period changes according to what I am reading or where I am traveling.  When I was at Mars Hill College, I accompanied a group of fellow students and our history professor Dr. Jolley (who at 96 is still reading, researching and writing) on a couple of trips.  The first one was “The Winter of 76”, north to Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Boston, Monticello, Vermont and various stops along the way.  The 2nd trip with Dr. Jolley was “Wonderlands South”, all the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyland Drive, Monticello, Mt. Vernon, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, St. Augustine, the Everglades, and Atlanta.  Just before I retired, I was able to participate in several outstanding Teaching American History grant trips including many periods and places in American History.  Those included the American West, the East as well as people and places in our own state of Georgia.

6. What is the mission of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies? 
The Mission of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies is to advocate for, support, and celebrate the advancement of quality social studies teaching for Georgia Students.

The Vision of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, effective decision makers and engaged citizens in a globally interdependent world.

7. How is social studies education changing and how does GCSS reflect and support these changes?
For many, many years, history was taught as something that students should sit quietly, listen to the teacher’s lecture and take notes.  Of course, this is not the way we teach history any more.  Today, the best teachers look for ways to directly involve their students in learning about history through technology, primary source documents, travel to historic sites, etc. GCSS supports the work of history teachers by providing opportunities for teachers to learn new things at the GCSS Conference as well as allowing teachers to share the good things that they are learning.  Also, GCSS members were very involved in the work of standards revision this past year.  Also, GCSS keeps its members informed about professional learning opportunities as well as changes on the legislative and state board levels that affect the work of teachers.