Category Archives: MAT History/Social Studies

2017 Teacher Research Project Conference

On May 17, 2017, Brown MAT students gathered at The Wheeler School in Providence to present their year-long teacher research projects. Director of Teacher Education Daniel Bisaccio welcomed everyone to the conference.

Dulari Tahbildar (Brown ’00), executive director of Breakthrough Providence whose works centers on educational equity and social justice, provided the keynote address. Dulari challenged the MAT students by participating in an exercise that encouraged them to reflect on their own teaching experiences and what they hope to do and be in the future classroom.

After a brief reception for students, faculty, mentors, and friends, 39 MAT students presented their projects during three 30-minute sessions. Visitors ambled from room to room to view presentations on computers and on posterboards, some with visual aids ranging from completed classroom assignments to student poems to taxonomy.

Read on to see candid conference photos of some of the presenters and their projects: Continue reading


Spotlight On Alumni: Allison Bryan ’13


From Beijing to Ireland, Secondary History MAT alum Allison Bryan taught in a variety of settings before coming to Brown. Along with her husband, Secondary English MAT alum Eric Spreng ’13, she is now based at the International School of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. In this interview, she discusses her background and her experience in the program.

What were you doing before the program?
Before the program, I had been working in education both state-side and internationally. The three years immediately before the program, my husband and I were both working at Tshinghua International School in Beijing, China. This school was a joint effort of Columbia University and Tshinghua University. The goal was to create a school that took the best of Western and Eastern education. I was teaching 6th grade social studies and language arts, and my classes had a strong emphasis on learning about the communities and the people around us, but teaching with primarily western methods. Prior to that, I was the recipient of a Fulbright grant to teach English and American studies at La Universidad Nacional de Villa Maria in Argentina. I also spent time working in after school and summer programs in Northern Ireland (working in peace-building between Catholic and Protestant youth) and in the United States (providing tutoring and enrichment classes to immigrants and refugee in the public schools).

What attracted you to Brown’s program?
My husband and I both applied to multiple schools for master’s programs. Brown was ultimately the best fit for both of us. We really liked the small size of the program, the Brown Summer High School component, and the pairing of one course-based semester with one student teaching semester. My goal coming into the program was to get more experience actually doing the work of a historian (during the academic semester) as well as build on the skills I had already been developing as a classroom teacher.

What was the highlight of the program?
There were so many! Once we were actually there, I realized how valuable the small size of the program was. I had a really close relationship with my director at the time, Brian, but also felt strongly supported by Dan and Laura (Directors of Secondary Science and English MAT programs, respectively) as well. The opportunity to work with so many master teachers during the summer program also provided a lot of exposure to new teaching methods and ideas and a chance for me to experiment with them. The semester of coursework was amazing, too. I got to dig into the work of being a historian with great professors like Dr. Remensnyder. I loved getting to work with the primary sources in the libraries at Brown, as well.

Where did you student teach?
I spent most of my student teaching semester at Paul Cuffee Middle School. The teachers there were so friendly and willing to have me in their classrooms and it also gave me the chance to see first-hand some different approaches to education, such as standards-based assessments and student-led conferences.

How did the program meet your expectations?
I firmly believe the program prepared me for the classroom. It was a great balance between theory and practice. I got acquainted with so many thinkers in the field of education, built a great network with other young and motivated teachers, stepped inside numerous classrooms at many different types of schools, and got to try out many new teaching methods. I felt so strongly supported by Brian and the other program directors, as well. It was an incredibly hard year, and I think I could literally feel myself growing from week to week. Simply put, I am a better teacher now. I have a more thorough understanding of current trends, the history of education, and many other facets of teaching.

What do you like best about your work as a teacher?
That is a really tough question. I love so many aspects of teaching. I love building relationships with the students and getting to know them over the course of the year(s) that I teach them. I love it when they have an “aha!” moment, and really get excited about a new idea or understanding. I also love the creativity that is inherent in teaching. Creating curriculum and planning lessons gives me the chance to really wrap my head around different ideas and issues and find exciting ways to help the students learn. For example, we’re making documentaries on the causes and effects of different types of pollution in my 7th grade social studies class. It’s been fun doing the learning myself first; I guess I am a student at heart.

What would you tell someone considering the Brown MAT?
It is a really incredible program. It is, of course, important to be sure that a program is the right fit for you. Only you know that, so do your research. If you want a small program that is flexible and responsive to your needs and questions, Brown is it. The professors at Brown, inside the MAT program and in the other departments, are outstanding, the resources are excellent, and the access to so many master teachers is truly wonderful. I am so glad I chose Brown and Brown chose me. It was the most concentrated period of vocational and academic growth I think I’ve ever had, and it happened in an incredibly supportive environment.

Perspectives: Eric Shed, Director of History Education

The Director of History Education discusses the program’s holistic approach, what drives his work as a teacher educator, practical teaching strategies, creating teaching teams, and more. View all Faculty Perspectives.

Ben Weber, MAT ’08, Receives NCSS Award

At the 91st annual National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) conference in Washington, DC, Ben Weber (MAT ’08) was awarded the NCSS Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year Award for which only one teacher is selected nation-wide, becoming the youngest teacher ever to win. He met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and gave a talk entitled “History as the Science of Decision Making.”  Ben’s high school alma mater, the San Fransisco Waldorf School, did an alumni profile of him.

The Education Department’s Teacher Education Program welcomes two new members this fall

The Education Department’s Teacher Education Program welcomes two new members this fall: Maureen Sigler, Lecturer in Education, will direct the History/Social Studies MAT Program, and Daniel Bisaccio will direct the Science / Biology MAT Program. Ms. Sigler, who served as Interim Director of the History/Social Studies Program last year, has an M.Ed. from Harvard in Administration, Planning, and Social Philosophy and a B.A. from Trinity College. She taught for two years at D.C. Prep Academy and three years as a Teach for America Volunteer in the Washington, D.C., public schools, and was Curriculum Coordinator for the New Teacher Project at Mercy College in New York City.
Mr. Bisaccio served as Math/Science/Technology Division head at Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire, where he also taught biology, tropical ecology, and a seminar, Conservation biology and Literature. He has worked extensively in professional development for teachers, and his teaching methods and research have been featured in several books, on National Public Radio, and an CBS Television special. He is a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Caribbean Biodiversity Research Steering Committee.

Professor Johnson Presents at Social Justice Conference

Professor Bil Johnson presented at the 4th Annual International Conference on Teacher Education and Social Justice, January 12-14, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. His workshop was entitled “Starting the Dialogue about Race and Social Justice”.

Professor Johnson Presents at Chicago Conference

Professor Bil Johnson presented at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum, Nov. 2nd through the 4th in Chicago. The session was entitled: “Attaining Critical Mass: Preparing and Retaining New Teachers for the Long Haul.” For over twenty years, CES has led educators and policymakers nationally to transform public education.