Westfield High School social studies teacher Kimberly Leegan was presented with the Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award during the National Social Studies Conference in San Francisco held Nov. 16 to 19.  The NCSS established the award and selects one teacher in the United States each year. 

In addition to the prestigious recognition and a trophy presented at the annual conference, Leegan received a $2500 grant, which the NCSS provides to help classroom teachers “reach for the stars” and achieve a dream that under ordinary circumstances would not be fulfilled. The purpose of the fund is to support research and classroom application projects which improve social studies education, foster enlightened citizenship, and promote civic competence. 

Although the award ceremony was held this November, the NCSS provided Leegan with the grant monies earlier this year to enable the purchase of virtual reality goggles for her Adopt a Country Project in Westfield High School.

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“The Adopt a Country Project enables students to learn about culture, history and current events of adopted countries; showcase research by designing a website; teach students; and experience life in adopted countries by utilizing virtual reality goggles,” explained Leegan. “Students also identify and address a social issue faced by their adopted country and take informed action on their path to global citizenship,” she added.

Upon receiving the trophy at the NCSS Convention, Leegan remarked, “I am incredibly honored to receive the Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award and extremely thankful to the National Council for the Social Studies and the Fund for the Advancement of Social Studies Education for providing the grant, which allowed us to purchase virtual reality goggles for Westfield High School.  I firmly believe that enhancing student engagement in the classroom helps develop lifelong learners, and grants like this one help teachers do that.”  

In addition to the ceremony, Leegan gave two presentations, including one in connection with her award winning classroom project entitled "Adopt a Country."