Lakeland teacher named to national board

Published 8:31 pm Monday, April 23, 2012

India Meissel hopes to protect the future of social studies instruction in American schools when she serves on the National Council for the Social Studies board of directors.

A Lakeland High School educator hopes to safeguard the future in American school curriculums of the subject area she teaches after being selected to sit on the National Council for the Social Studies board of directors.

India Meissel, a 25-year veteran of teaching who has been at Lakeland for 21 of those, was selected one of three selected nationwide to serve on the board for three years, beginning July 1.

Meissel mostly teaches U.S. history but has also taught “just about everything that we offer” under the banner of social studies.

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Having just served a four-year term on the council’s Awards Committee, which helps select the National Social Studies Teacher of the Year, she said she was in disbelief on receiving the news.

“The (council’s) national president called me, and I thought she was kidding me,” Meissel said.

“When I told my kids, of course they were really thrilled. I don’t think half of them understood what I was being elected to, but since I explained it to them they were pretty excited.”

The council board helps set policy for social studies nationally. “We have to work within the frameworks of each state, as well as the (U.S.) Department of Education,” Meissel said.

Meissel’s goal is to protect the future of social studies subjects like history and geography.

“Virginia was looking to eliminate third-grade history testing,” she said. “The council sent a letter opposing that, with the argument that if you eliminate the test, there will be people that will eliminate the teachers, and social studies is integral to who we are and how we live in this world.”

Meissel said social studies subjects have been threatened by No Child Left Behind, a federal policy focusing on reading and math testing.

“Obviously we (board members) can’t sit here and say, ‘We have to do this,’ but we’re trying to make certain history and the social sciences continue to be a very integral part of education,” she said.

“There’s the old saying, ‘If you don’t learn history, you are condemned to repeat it.’”

The social sciences also play a role in teaching about global society and culture, she said, adding, “We all have to try to coexist in this world and if you don’t teach the histories — not just U.S. history — we’re not giving ourselves the best opportunity to operate in a global society.”