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History Teachers Earn $1 Million Grant

History teachers in the Long Beach Unified School District have earned a three-year, $1 million grant to help pay for master’s degree tuition and to provide additional training by renowned experts. The Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education is the fifth such grant since 2001 awarded to the school district, which has now received more of these grants than any other school system in the nation. The latest grant will help teachers of grades three through five to further their subject knowledge and teaching skills. Their students will improve their reading skills while learning to think critically about historical events. “We’re proud to receive a fifth grant. It’s unprecedented,” said Linda Mehlbrech, LBUSD history/social science curriculum leader. “The Department of Education must be pleased with what we’ve done in the past.” The four prior grants of about $1 million each, two of which remain in effect, have focused on improving elementary, middle and high school history instruction. The grants emphasize teacher training provided by instructors from Long Beach City College, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Dominguez Hills. “One of the reasons we received the new grant is that we have such a great relationship with our partners in higher education,” Mehlbrech said. The new grant again will recruit teachers to participate in training. This time, about 75 teachers from local elementary schools will participate in monthly seminars and summer institutes. Another 25 will receive about $2,500 each to be used toward completion of a master’s degree in U.S. history at Cal State Long Beach. These teachers have already been recruited and will start their master’s programs on Sept. 5. As with prior grants, participating teachers will travel to historical sites in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and they will learn to make greater use of primary sources, or original historical documents, in the classroom. The result will be lessons that bring history alive for elementary school students. “Rather than memorizing the list of U.S. presidents, for example, students will read about and discuss effective leadership in the context of historical events,” Mehlbrech said. “Then they can begin to decide for themselves which presidents they should remember the most.” Other partners on the latest grant include The History Channel and renowned historians Bob Bain, from the University of Michigan, and Carol Berken, a professor of American history at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Teacher training under the latest grant also will focus on using history materials to improve reading comprehension, ensuring, for instance, that students can readily grasp the main idea of a passage of text. The grant continues LBUSD’s strong tradition of cultivating highly qualified, award-winning history teachers. LBUSD boasts the 2007 statewide winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Outstanding Teacher of American History Award and the 2006 DAR Outstanding Teacher of American History Award from DAR District XIII.