Teacher: Courtney Wertz, Paisley Middle / High School (Paisley)
Subject: Grades 7-12 Social Studies and English
Experience: Five years teaching in Paisley; prior to that, Courtney taught English/ELL in the Portland Metro area for many years.
Courtney is the 2019-20 Civic Educator of the Year. She connected with Civics Learning Project when she began teaching in Paisley, and has participated in many of our programs: We the People, Project Citizen, Mock Trial, Summer Institute, Oregon Civics Conference, the James Madison Legacy Project, and the Abby Cohort Program. Courtney utilizes Current Events in her classroom, and has taken students to Portland from Paisley – an 11+ hour round trip – for the Courthouse Experience Tour.
In her own words:
“Paisley School District is located in a tiny, rural ranching community in southeastern Oregon. I drive 100 miles round trip from my home in Lakeview to work each day, which always feels like an adventure – particularly in the winter, when we get several feet of snow and school is never canceled due to bad weather!
I found Civics Learning Project just as I started teaching in Paisley. I was new to teaching social science, and felt very overwhelmed by the courses I was responsible for mastering and teaching. Civics Learning Project was a live saver, providing me with resources, training, and support. Every Civics Learning Project experience has been very positive for my students – they love seeing the justice system up close on the Courthouse Experience tours, and the class I took to Salem to present their Project Citizen portfolio at the capitol building talked about the experience until they graduated.
Because of Civics Learning Project, I’ve learned to navigate the political divide that exists between eastern and western Oregon. I feel comfortable teaching and talking about voting, politics, and current events in a constructive way. It’s so important to help students feel empowered to actively engage in their community and to voice their concerns, even if they are in the minority.
Being named Civic Educator of the Year was completely unexpected. There are so many dedicated and hardworking teachers around Oregon who also deserve to be recognized, and I appreciate the opportunity to share what’s going on in our little community. My hope is that teachers in other small districts across Oregon will access Civics Learning Project’s resources to support and enrich their own curriculum and students.”