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An Oral History Project Aims to Make it Trendy to Celebrate Teachers

StoryCorps' new oral history project is out to celebrate the brilliant and courageous work of teachers.

Celebrating teachers is having a well-deserved moment. This summer we saw Matt Damon expose the hypocrisy of anti-teacher sentiment at a national rally and a social media campaign to publicly thank teachers kicked off last week. Now StoryCorps, the national nonprofit oral history project, which has recorded the experiences of over 70,000 people, has launched the National Teachers Initiative, an effort to celebrate "the brilliant and courageous work of public school teachers across the country."

Throughout this academic year, the organization plans to interview a diverse sampling of 625 teachers in 10 cities—everywhere from large urban areas like New York City to rural Army posts like Fort Riley, Kansas. While the interviews will cover the depth and breadth of the teaching experience, the heart will be conversations about the hard work teachers do to reduce the nation's dropout rate and ensure that students graduate from high school college- and career-ready.

What makes this project particularly interesting is that the interviews will move beyond the usual reporter-interviewing-a-teacher format. Instead, StoryCorps plans to have educators interview each other—imagine listening to two close colleagues interviewing each other about the ups and downs of getting at-risk students back on track. The project will also feature current and former students interviewing teachers who made a significant impact on them.

Some of the interviews will air on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday over the next year, and the entire collection of oral histories will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps hopes the public will tune in and recognize the "contributions teachers have made to this nation, honor those who have embraced the profession as their calling, encourage teaching as a career choice, and unify the country behind its teachers." Sounds pretty good to us.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Slongood

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