DAYTONA BEACH—Christy Disinger, who has a knack for making historical characters like Thomas Jefferson come to life through modern phenomena like Facebook, is Volusia County's new Teacher of the Year.
Disinger, a civics and American history teacher at DeLand Middle School, received the award Friday night before more than 900 education supporters at a banquet at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort. She was selected from 70 teachers nominated by the colleagues at their schools.
"This is definitely one of those million-dollar moments for me," Disinger said. She went on to describe what she called the "best job in the world," quoting some of her favorite student questions to illustrate that point.
They included: "Is this history stuff a true story?" and "Does the electoral college have a football team?"
The Thomas Jefferson-Facebook connection comes from a recent lesson in which Disinger had her students design fictional Facebook or MySpace pages for someone who signed the Declaration of Independence.
It's one example of the way she harnesses her students' interest in modern-day technology to teach them about history.
"The students of today are very different learners than from years past," Disinger wrote in her award application. "They are intrigued and drawn to the digital world because it is multi-sensory… We need to empower students to become digital citizens and use these technologies to enhance their learning experience and their critical thinking skills."
Disinger, 29, started teaching at DeLand Middle in 2003 after graduation from Stetson University. She will represent Volusia in the state Teacher of the Year competition and will serve as an informal ambassador for the county's teachers for the next 12 months.
Agatha Lee, a second-grade teacher at Belle Terre Elementary School, was named last month as Flagler's Teacher of the Year.
DeLand Middle Principal Matt Krajewski described Disinger as "one of the absolute finest educators I have ever seen" in a letter recommending her for the countywide award. "She is high-energy and uses enthusiasm and humor to engage her students to help them achieve," he wrote. "Most importantly, she earns their respect."
Besides technology, Disinger uses many hands-on activities to keep her students interested and engaged in learning.
"Students cannot be expected to learn when they are not involved. When students are engaged in meaningful activities, learning naturally follows," she wrote in her application.
Examples include debates, mock trials and crime-scene investigations, a climbing Mount Everest simulation and a modified Ancient Greek Olympics.
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