Teacher to bring history to life with $2,000 grant

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By Jesef Williams

A local educator has been recognized with a national award for bringing innovative ideas to the classroom.

Hope Figuero, a fourth-grade teacher at Erwin Elementary School, is one of 100 winners of the 2009 Unsung Heroes award program sponsored by financial institution ING.

ING recognized those teachers for developing innovative programs and incorporating them into lessons.

Figuero, who also received a $2,000 grant, was presented her award earlier this month.

“I am very excited and honored to have been chosen out of all the applicants for this award,” Figuero said. “It was a huge surprise that I am so very thankful for and I am looking forward to using this award for my students.”

Figuero has developed a program called Bringing History to Life with Claymation.

In the program, her students will explore the Declaration of Independence, learning about historic events and people. They will write a script and use clay to create characters and props.

Moving the clay figures slightly and taking pictures of each movement, they will animate the figures with the help of computer software. The end result will be a motion picture.

“I feel that students learn best through hands-on projects where they are the one in control of their learning,” Figuero said. “I have also found that students understand the concepts in history better if the are actively involved in a fun activity.”

Figuero and the other national winners will vie for one of the top three grand prizes – an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000.

“We are honored to recognize the work of educators like Hope Figuero whose tireless efforts and dedication often go unnoticed,” said Dan Hanlon, a senior vice president with ING U.S. Retirement Services.

“Each day these heroes make the investment in the lives of America’s schoolchildren to help prepare them for the future.”

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152