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Diplomat Middle teacher receives state recognition

Lisa Larson is Florida’s nominee for national history teacher of the year award

By CJ HADDAD - | May 20, 2021

Diplomat Middle School teacher Lisa Larson has been named the 2021 Junior Division nominee from Florida for the National History Day Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award, given to a middle school educator (junior and senior division) for their outstanding work and dedication to their students. PROVIDED

Diplomat Middle School teacher Lisa Larson loves history, and she loves sharing with her students.

Recently, Larson was named among the best nationally for her dedication to education and ability to cultivate the stories of the past in a way that students are engaged and involved.

Larson was named the 2021 Junior Division nominee from Florida for the National History Day Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award, given to a middle school educator (junior and senior division) for their outstanding work and dedication to their students.

“I’m just elated,” Larson said. “I’m honored and thrilled. This is the epitome of any sort of accolade I’ve earned as a teacher. It’s great.”

Now a long-time Cape Coral resident, Larson began her journey as a molder of minds nearly 28 years ago in North Carolina and has taught throughout Florida at various schools.

Larson, 55 and in her 16th year at Diplomat, said she’s always loved teaching world history, as it’s a way to give students a different perspective from another realm, culture or place in time.

“I just feel that it opens so many doors to children,” she said. “They get to see how other countries do things, other languages, other religions, other governments. I always enjoyed that aspect of world history.”

For her, the connection with her students is what keeps her drive and passion running day after day.

“I love my students,” Larson said. “I love middle school; they’re such great kids and I always feel every day when I come to work that there’s purpose, that I’m making a change or difference in a kids life in some small way or another.”

This school year is the first where world history is not part of the curriculum at Diplomat. Larson teaches sixth grade health, and is the driving force and Coordinator of the annual History Fair (11 years and counting).

National History Day is a non-profit organization based in Maryland that offers yearlong academic programs that engage more than 500,000 middle and high school students annually, with affiliates around the world.

“(National History Day) makes history exciting for kids, it brings it alive,” Larson said.

The fair that Larson coordinates each year is part of NHD’s annual National History Day contest, where students compete at the local and affiliate levels, with the top students advancing to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.

“It’s higher level project-based learning,” Larson said. “I feel that’s so vital to education right now. This is more content- and skilled-based rather than a test. I think the kids take the experience into adulthood with them. It uses artistic creativity and it’s something they remember. They can flourish and excel and show off so much of their talent.”

She added that in a year with a pandemic keeping people apart, students being able to work with one another on a project is something more valuable now than ever.

Principal of Diplomat Middle School Maura Bennington said Larson’s presence certainly makes a difference to the youth that attend.

“Mrs. Larson is an energetic teacher who easily transfers her love of history to her students,” Bennington said. “She inspires students to be curious about history and to learn how the past has impacted their lives and the world around them.

“Not only do Mrs. Larson’s students learn historical information, they also learn a strong work ethic, to be organized, to be inquisitive, and to be reflective about their learning.

“Her positive energy is contagious and the students love being in her classes.”

Larson said the support from the administration at Diplomat, as well as from her husband and three sons means the world to her.

The winners of the NHD Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award will be unveiled on June 19 in a virtual setting. All nominees have been awarded a $500 prize and the national winners will each receive a $10,000 prize.

For more information on NHD, visit www.nhd.org.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj