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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A monthly newsletter for Illinois civics teachers to support the implementation of the state’s middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards.

Earn Your Civic Microcredentials: Become a Guardian of Democracy Educator is partnering with the DuPage Regional Office of Education and the University of St. Francis to provide ALL Illinois educators the opportunity to earn micro-credentials in the proven practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom.

Participants will create a Portfolio of Practice throughout the course exploring:

  • The benefits of student to student discussion
  • Various discussion strategies with demonstration videos and classroom-ready guides
  • How to navigate common obstacles and concerns from parents and administrators
  • Tools for online learning to incorporate in classrooms

Participants in the fall pilot of the course ranged from pre-service professors, first-year teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and seasoned civic educators. Here are some of their reflections.

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think it scared me and made me nervous, but now I think I am prepared and confident." 

- 6-12 grade department chairperson from a suburban school district

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think that there were a plethora of landmines to be concerned about, but now I think that with the right combination of establishing a classroom environment and well-thought-out, specific strategies, landmines can be avoided and phenomenal discourse is bound to happen." 

- 6-8 grade AVID teacher from an urban district

"When I think about engaging students in current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom, I used to think I’m never going to be able to do it properly and cause a huge chaotic controversy in my small rural school, but now I think it’s doable and no matter where I’m teaching I’ll be able to handle the conversation using strategies from Guardians of Democracy: Current and Controversial Issues Discussions." 

- 1st-year teacher from a rural high school

The Winter cohort will begin on January 18, 2020. Interested Illinois educators may register through the DuPage Regional Office of Education. Out-of-state educators can find out more information at the Guardians of Democracy homepage. Those who successfully complete the 5-week online course earn 15 PD hours and a Bronze Certified Guardian of Democracy Educator badge via Credle and the University of Central Florida Center for Distributive Learning. Graduate credit is available through the University of St. Francis for an additional fee. Additional courses on Simulations of Democratic Processes and Taking Informed Action Through Service Learning are coming later in 2020.

Election 2020 Featured Resource:  What to Look for in the Early Primaries 

The new year brings an opportunity to use the upcoming elections to engage students in the proven practices of civic education outlined in 6-12th grade civic course mandates. will provide a plethora of resources and lesson plans to support this important work.

Join us on January 16 from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. for an afterschool webinar that delves into the early primaries with Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  

Dr. Healy will examine the candidates, polling data, and the mechanics of caucuses and primaries in delegate selection and what to look for with your students in early 2020. The webinar will conclude with classroom resources you can use with your students to engage them in current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning during this election year.

Register today for this first in a series of webinars to support #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms in this election year. Those who register can join live, or receive a link to view the recorded presentation and accompanying resources.

Professional Development Opportunities

Listed below are upcoming workshops and conference presentations that address the proven and practices of civic education and Illinois social science standards.  Regularly visit our Professional Development Calendar for new opportunities to enhance your classroom practice.

1/13 - DuPage Regional Office of Education - Current and Controversial Issue Discussions in the Classroom - The Guardians of Democracy Bronze Certified Educator Badge (Online)
1/21 - Chicago Teachers Union and Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center - Count Me In: Schools as Critical Partners in Census 2020 (Chicago, IL)
1/23 - DuPage Regional Office of Education - Administrator Academy:  Exploring the New Illinois Social Studies and Civic Requirements K-12 (Wheaton, IL)
1/24 - Professional Development Alliance - Civics in the Middle: The Illinois Social Science Standards & Civics Requirement 6-8 (Joliet, IL)
1/28 - Lake County ROE 34 - Putting Civics in the Middle: The Illinois Social Science Standards and Civics Requirement 6-8 (Grayslake, IL)

2/6 - Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center - Informed Action: Empowering Students to Take a Stand! (Skokie, IL)
2/10 - ROE #12 - Civics Mandates & Supports for Middle & High School Levels (Robinson, IL)
2/21- DuPage Regional Office of Education- Engaging Student Voice in Inquiry: Creating Safe Spaces in Polarized Times (Wheaton)
2/27 - Rock Island County ROE - Putting Civics in the Middle: The Illinois Social Science Standards and Civics Requirement 6-8 (Moline, IL)

It is never too early to plan for summer professional development. Our friends at the Council for Social Studies State Supervisors have created this spreadsheet of summer 2020 social studies professional development opportunities for your consideration. Be sure to share it with a friend!

Engage Student Voice with the 2020 Illinois Youth Survey

Engaging student voice in school governance is one of the six proven practices of civic education and aligns with the tenets of Social Emotional Learning Competencies. The Illinois Youth Survey is a self-reported survey administered biennially to students in grades 8, 10, and 12. The Illinois Department of Human Services contracts with the Center for Prevention and Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to make the survey available to schools at no cost.  An individualized report is provided to principals so they can better assess school needs and program impacts. The survey provides data on a variety of student health issues and behaviors, including alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, health and nutritional behaviors, and student feelings about school climate. Participation is optional but can help schools and districts identify needs and promote student health. Visit the Illinois Youth Survey website for more information.

NEW RESOURCE:  Census 2020 Toolkit

The 2020 Census provides K-12 civics classrooms an opportunity to engage in inquiry leading to informed action around issues of power and representation. Schools can be critical partners to help Illinois take an accurate count.  Our new Census Toolkit provides plenty of resources to engage classrooms in inquiry around the census, help educators understand the challenges and opportunities of the census and offer community outreach materials to reach parents and other stakeholders.  We also have a 3-4 day inquiry lesson, How does your community COUNT on YOU?,  to engage #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms in current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes and service-learning per the Illinois middle and high school civic mandates.

#CivicsInTheMiddle Featured Resources:  Meeting the LGBTQ History Mandate

Beginning in July 2020, Illinois schools are required to include the positive contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in their history curriculum and use textbooks that include the roles of people protected under the state’s Human Rights Act. HB 0246 amends the U.S. History requirement of the Illinois School Code to require, “In public schools only, the teaching of history shall include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this state”.

Are you looking for resources to help meet this new mandate?  Here are a few places to start to build your toolkit for LGBTQ History.

Teacher Opportunity:  Transatlantic Educator Dialogue

The Transatlantic Education Dialogue (T.E.D.) is an opportunity for educators in the United States of America and the European Union to come together online for shared exploration and examination of a variety of educational topics related to issues of identity and difference, with a particular emphasis on representations of “the other” in the classroom. This experience of educational diplomacy and exploration from multiple perspectives will enable educators to overcome cultural misunderstandings and misconceptions. There is no cost to participate. Applications are due January 15. For more information visit the European Union Center at the University of Illinois.

Student Opportunity: 2020 Rural Youth Assembly

Do you have students 16-24 years old interested in rural and Native issues?   Do you have students who are committed to taking informed action to improve their community?  Nominate youth and apply today to be a delegate at the 2020 Rural Youth Assembly Summit.  The Rural Assembly will host the Rural Youth Summit April 2-5, 2020 in McAllen, Texas. Fifty young adults from rural places across the country will gather to discuss the issues that they see as important to their lives and their communities. Visit the Rural Youth Assembly website for more information.

Make it Your New Year’s Resolution to Connect with Your Illinois Civics Instructional Coach.

Have you met your region’s Civic Instructional Coach? The McCormick Foundation employs Civics Instructional Coaches to represent ten designated areas throughout Illinois to facilitate the implementation of legislation concerning a new middle school civics course requirement and sustain the support of the high school civics requirement.  If you would like to connect with your coach and receive a free, monthly newsletter designed specifically for your region of Illinois, please complete this form. Your regional civic instructional coach will follow up with a personal introduction and inquiry as to how they can best support you in civics instruction.

Jason Artman is the Social Studies Department Chairperson at Mendota High School, where he teaches U.S. History, U.S. History Honors, and Civics. He was an Illinois Civics Mentor for the last three years and is co-author and co-facilitator of two OnlineImpact civics workshops. He is finishing the DePaul/Barat Foundation micro-credential course series on teaching with primary sources, civics, and student inquiry. In addition to sharing civics resources and strategies, he enjoys presenting workshops on practical ways to use reading and writing to teach civics and U.S. History. Region: Bureau, Henry, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell & Woodford Counties
Alia Bluemlein has the privilege of teaching at her alma mater, Prairie Ridge High School, in Crystal Lake. This is her seventh year teaching; she began her career as a middle school Social Studies/Language Arts teacher and has had the awesome opportunity to teach grades six through twelve. Currently, she is a U.S. History, AP Government and Politics, and Law in American Society teacher, so civics is an integral component of the curriculum she gets to teach. She has an undergraduate degree in History and Political Science — the study of civics has always been a passion of hers and at the forefront of her studies. Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  & Winnebago Counties
Candace Fikis attended the University of Illinois for her undergraduate degree and received a master's degree in Education Administration from Aurora University. She has taught for 22 years in a wide variety of classes including an interdisciplinary American Studies course, Criminal Justice, Current Political Issues, Economics, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, Government, and U.S. History at West Chicago Community High School. She has served as a Student Council Advisor and coach of the school’s nationally-ranked Economics and Personal Finance Challenge Teams. She has been recognized as a Visa Practical Money Skills Educator and 3M Outstanding Economic Educator from Econ Illinois. She has served as a Civic Mentor teacher for the state and presented at many local, state and national conferences. Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties
Tracy Freeman is a National Board Certified teacher in her 31st year of teaching, all but 5 in high school social studies classroom. She is currently teaching AP US Government, US History which is standards-based, Civics and currently short term prepping Economics. Freeman is department chair at Normal West High School. They are a Democracy School and civically engage students in school whenever possible. They host an annual Veteran’s day dinner, career fair, and many other student-initiated projects. The introduction of service-learning as a requirement in civics and AP have led to countless student projects. She has also brought students to programs by Mikva Challenge, Constitutional Rights Foundation, and meetings with state and local officials.  Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties
Chris Johnson is entering his 15th year teaching at ROWVA Jr/Sr High School in Oneida, Illinois, where he teaches a range of classes including AP Government and Politics, AP European History, high school civics, and 7th grade world history.  Teaching history and government is a real passion for Johnson, who looks for creative ways to combine teaching topics in social studies with modern technology tools. He is an active member of ISTE and their state affiliate IDEA and draws inspiration from these outstanding groups of educators to find new ways to empower students to become active and engaged members of the global world they live in. He looks forward to working with educators across the state to develop effective civics education for our junior high students! Region: Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott & Warren Counties
Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz taught high school in the St. Louis area prior to earning a Ph.D. in history. She was a James Madison fellow, class of 1999, and graduated from Knox College with a BA in history and secondary education. She is the social science teaching coordinator and an associate professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, where she teaches social studies methods courses as well as the U.S. history survey, women’s history, research methods, and writing, and courses in the online MA for teachers.  Laughlin-Schultz organizes an annual fall conference for IL social studies educators, writes about the teaching of history and civics, has presented at the Illinois Council for the Social Studies as well as other teaching conferences, and is a member of the National Council for the Social Studies, Illinois Council for the Social Studies, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties

Heather Monson teaches in East Moline at United Township High School covering government/civic for over 10 years, along with teaching World History and US History at all levels for over 16 years. She has an MS in History along with 30 additional graduate hours in History. She is currently halfway through an MA in Museum Studies. She also teaches Social Studies Methods at the WIU-QC campus. She is an active member of the NCSS as part of the Archival committee and enjoys their conferences annually.  Monson works with the Golden Apple Foundation as a mentor across the state working with new Golden Apple Scholar graduates. She is really excited about this new adventure and looks forward to working with teachers from her region.  Region: Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties 
Logan Ridenour works at Dupo Jr/Sr High School in Dupo, Illinois, teaching U.S. History, Freshman Orientation, and is in charge of the school's Cooperative Education Program. He taught U.S. Government and Civics at his prior school for seven years and has been attending workshops about the best practices in Civics education for the last three years.  Region: Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, Washington & Williamson Counties
Patty West is a National Board Certified teacher with 20 years of experience working in Springfield School District #186. She currently teaches 6th grade World History and serves as the Social Studies Department Chair. Patty is a member of the district level team responsible for the design and implementation of curriculum, incorporating Conceptual Teaching and the new Illinois Social Science Learning Standards. She has served on district committees tasked with implementing a new teacher evaluation system and student growth measures. Working at both the middle and high school levels, Patty has provided support to schools as a new teacher mentor and a district liaison to school leadership teams. Region: Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery & Sangamon Counties
Matt Wood is an alum of Illinois State University and has been teaching for the last twelve years at Leman Middle School. He is a member of the National Council of Social Studies and the American History Association. Matt spends his time researching best practices to implement in his classroom, while also coaching track and sponsoring the Student Council during the school year.  Working in collaboration with the League of Women Voters and District 94, his Student Council kids hosted a Candidate Forum for the local spring elections in an effort to help increase awareness of the importance of local civic engagement. Last spring, Matt accepted the task of helping his district develop its new Civic Action course. Region: Central Cook, DeKalb, DuPage & Kane Counties

At, we endeavor to link educators with resources that address essential questions with proven strategies and tools to prepare students for college, career, and civic life. This monthly newsletter provides civic educators with timely professional development opportunities, classroom resources, and inspiration with #CivicsIsBack success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, “teachable moments” and related materials, follow our blog.

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