An Evanston Township High School history teacher has been named Illinois History Teacher of the Year by a national history education organization.
Corey Winchester, entering his 11th year at ETHS, won the award from the New York based Gilder Lehrman Institute. The honor is based on examples of student work, lesson plans, and a personal statement.
Winchester did not apply for the award. He was nominated by an ETHS colleague. “I don’t teach for accolades or awards,” Winchester says. Rather, he “sees these things as opportunities, as a history teacher, as a Black man” as a chance to “elevate different voices.”
Winchester teaches U.S. History, Advanced Placement U.S. History, and a course called “History and Sociology of Class, Gender, and Race.” Interested in history since childhood, Winchester recalls his mother explaining the murder of Emmett Till, and what it meant to him.
What it means now as a teacher is there are “multiple narratives of history and not just the Eurocentric version” taught so often in the past. His goal is to help high school students understand that reality.
Part of Winchester’s model is “abolitionist teaching,” rejecting the status quo, helping students of color to understand the “legacy of white supremacy, and helping white students understand it as well. “White supremacy,” he says, “takes away the humanity of white folks too.”
Teaching concepts and not just facts and dates is always a challenge. But starting Monday, when ETHS begins the semester totally on remote learning due to COVID-19, that challenge moves to a new level.
“I’m expecting the kids to be slightly overwhelmed,” Winchester says. “I think the first day of school will be a mess.”
But Winchester says, “It’s time to figure out how to move forward and get this show on the road.”
This award Winchester just won is his second in as many years. Last year he won a Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence in Illinois. And whatever the platform, in person or online, Winchester says the key is building trust.
So come Monday, that building begins anew. And once again, Corey Winchester will reach back to his childhood, and what he learned from his mom’s history lessons: “Humanize one another. I want to live in a place where folks are not oppressed. That’s not a hard thing to ask.”