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Meissel deserves recognition

Published 9:26pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

This has been a tough year for teachers.

They’ve had to fight for a meager raise that might not even offset the increased cost to them of their state retirement plan, passed along to them by Virginia’s General Assembly. They’ve watched as the same legislative body attempted to pass new laws that would threaten the tenure-like system that makes it harder to fire those who aren’t doing a good job. They’ve been saddled with ever-greater responsibilities as class sizes have grown and state and federal regulations continue to add to the workload.

In the midst of all that politics and regulation, however, Suffolk has some wonderful teachers, professionals who go out of their way every day to inspire students to learn and achieve to their greatest potential.

Lakeland High School’s India Meissel is one of those exceptional teachers.

Meissel, a 25-year teaching veteran who has spent 21 of those years in Suffolk Public Schools, recently was selected as one of three teachers nationwide to serve on the National Council for the Social Studies board of directors. The council board helps set policy for social studies nationally.

It’s an assignment dear to Meissel’s heart, as she has taught just about every subject that falls under the social studies umbrella during her time as a teacher. Her goal is to protect the future of social studies subjects like history and geography. Meissel said social studies subjects have been threatened by No Child Left Behind, a federal policy focusing on reading and math testing.

History is especially important to Meissel, whose current educational focus is on U.S. history. Students in her classroom can expect the unexpected. One favorite method of connecting with them during discussions about America during the 1920s, for example, is for her to show up in class dressed as women did during that period. She has introduced students to Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, and she has encouraged them to get involved in local historical projects.

All of those out-of-the-box methods have helped bring history alive for her students and encouraged them to find true connections with places and events that otherwise might have seemed distant and even unreal to them.

Meissel will be a great addition to the council’s board of directors. And she’s just the sort of teacher that Suffolk schools needs to find a way to encourage and support.

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